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Tours and 9-1-1 Basics

We provide access for groups to tour our emergency communications center facility. The presentation we provide is great for community groups, local business or chambers of commerce, church, youth, school, scouting, seniors or veteran groups, volunteer EMS, fire or police explorer groups, etc. If you are interested in having your group visit please contact:

Mary Gaittens, Training Coordinator
Office: 215-340-8786 (leave voicemail with your name, group name, anticipated group size, your email address, telephone number and requested date.)
Fax: (267) 885-1322

Here is a small glimpse of our communications center and information on how a 9-1-1 call is processed.

9-1-1 Basics - Dialing 9-1-1 & How the Call Progresses

Dialing 9-1-1 is a serious situation where the caller is declaring an emergency of some type. Whether it is involving a crime, a fire, a traffic accident, a medical emergency, 9-1-1 is there to connect our citizens to the emergency response system in the shortest amount of time. Remember: in an emergency situation involving life or property or any emergency situation requiring the immediate response from a fire truck, police car or ambulance, dial 9-1-1.

Here's what happens when you dial 9-1-1:

Scenario: There is an emergency and you dial 9-1-1. The Emergency Dispatcher/9-1-1 Call Taker will answer the line with "9-1-1, Where is the emergency?" We answer the telephones in this manner so that you provide us with the most important piece of information - the location of the emergency, where emergency services are needed.

Obtaining Your Location:

Traditional wired telephones provide our personnel with Automatic Location Information (ALI) on a computer screen but our Dispatchers will still always verbally verify the location. Many times the calling party is calling from another location and not the location of the emergency. Thus, it is important to ask "9-1-1, Where is the emergency?" at the beginning of the call to make sure emergency services are directed to the correct location without delay. Cell phone technology also provides us data that plots on a computer map very close (not exact) to the location of the person calling from the cell phone. Again, the Dispatcher will verbally verify to rule out any technological errors that might occur.

Verifying the correct location involves the dispatcher asking some questions to find out if the location is:

  • A commonly known location (“Commonplace”: Store, Church, Facility, School, etc.),

  • A residential or business address.

  • A major highway and intersection.

These questions will be followed by verbally verifying which borough or township, in the county, the call is coming from. This is important due to the presence of many duplicate or similar sounding street & location names throughout Bucks County. We take extra steps to ensure that the correct emergency service agency or agencies are dispatched to the scene. This is where we need your help in verifying the location. Your assistance saves time.

Questions asked by our Emergency Dispatchers:

Once we have verified your address or location, and depending on the type of call (emergency medical, fire or police) the types of additional questions will vary but at a minimum, the dispatcher will ask:

  • Your name

  • Your telephone number (verifying our ALI screen)

  • Additional questions to aid emergency responders to best handle your situation or emergency.

  • Type of emergency (medical , fire, police)

  • Description of the injuries,

  • Weapons (hazards to responders),

  • Physical Descriptions,

  • Vehicle Descriptions and license numbers,

  • For traffic accidents: extent and damage to vehicles to help determine medical level of care needed (starred windshield, air bags deployed, passenger compartment intrusion, etc.),

  • For fleeing persons or vehicles, which direction they went,

  • Any other hazards (fire, health, safety),

  • Fire exposures to other buildings,

  • …any question to help us “paint the picture” for responding units.

It is important that you remain on the line and answer these questions. Your assistance will help the emergency dispatchers to obtain vital information for responders. You may feel we are taking a long time on the phone with you. In reality it is only seconds or possibly minutes. At the same time Dispatchers are entering call information and calls are being dispatched over the radio to emergency responders.

If you are in any immediate danger to your life, you need to let the emergency dispatcher know this. The dispatcher will then instruct you to get off the line and you will then need to get to a place of safety.

If you are not in immediate danger and you are still on the telephone with the emergency dispatcher you may be given pre-arrival instruction to assist you, the victim or the emergency responders in preparation prior to their arrival.

Pre-Arrival Instructions:

Our Dispatchers are trained and certified Emergency Medical Dispatchers (EMDs) who provide emergency medical telephone instructions (“Pre-Arrival Instructions” (PAIs)) for situations such as CPR chest compressions for cardiac arrest, Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) instructions for those having access to an AED during a cardiac arrest situation, assisting a diabetic person, bleeding control, to name a few examples. As the 9-1-1 caller you are in the right position for receiving life-saving instructions to help a victim before emergency responders arrive. Working together as a team we can maintain or improve the victim’s medical status or even save a life.

Help is being dispatched at the same time Dispatchers are on the phone with you!

The emergency dispatcher will guide the process of questions and while this is happening the appropriate units will be dispatched (at the same time), to minimize the time getting the information to the emergency responders. Outside of any imminent threat of injury or harm where the caller needs to hang up, the dispatcher will be the one who will guide the call to a close.

You, the caller, are an important part of the team. You become our eyes and ears so we are able to "paint the picture" for those responding to the scene. These updates ensure that your emergency responders are best prepared before they arrive on scene, providing an additional measure of safety.

Once the call information is placed into our Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system the Emergency Dispatcher responsible for your area will radio dispatch the appropriate unit(s) to the scene, again, many times while you are still on the phone with another dispatcher, which saves time. From there Emergency Dispatchers will guide unit(s) to the scene and update them with additional information when necessary.

Department of Emergency Communications 
Audrey R. Kenny

Director / 911 Coordinator
Bucks County Department of Emergency Communications / 911 Center 
Bucks County Emergency Services Complex
911 Freedom Way
Ivyland, PA 18974
Phone: 215-340-8770 
Fax: 267-885-1323

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