Friday, March 30, 2012

Day #535 Citizen Fire Academy Class #3 - the 911 Center

Thursday evening we were at the Gwinnett County 911 Center for the third class in the Gwinnett Citizens Fire Academy.
The first half of the class we learned a great deal about the operations of the 911 center, how the 911 operators are trained, what the backup systems are in case of a power failure, and how the center responds to heavy emergencies, such as the floods that hit Gwinnett County in September of 2009 or the day Brian Nichols escaped from the courthouse, killing people in the process.
We heard about the high turnover rate. Many people simply can’t remember the codes, or they’ll freeze up when there’s a real emergency. Many others simply don’t like the pressure.
We saw the plaques on the wall citing the 911 operators who had either saved a life or delivered a baby. Yes, that’s what I said -- delivered a baby -- i.e. talked a person through the process when they called 911 in a panic.
For the second half of the class, we had a chance to wander around and speak with the various operators. I ended up listening to Melissa as she fielded calls. When she wasn’t answering a call, she took time to explain to me the 4-computer-monitor system she has to keep track of.

Seconds after I took this photo, she was answering, “911. Where is the location of your emergency?” 911 operators have to memorize hundreds of codes so they can key in the calls quickly and efficiently.

During another of her brief respites, I asked if she’d ever delivered a baby. Her face lit up. “Sometimes,” she said, “people can work here for ten years and never get a childbirth call, but I’ve only been here a year, and I’ve already delivered a baby!”
I asked how she did it, and she showed me the card file (written by a medical doctor) that walks the operators through the exact questions to ask.
Here’s the first section of the Childbirth Card: 

"Did you use this card?" I asked her.

"I SURE DID!" was her answer.

And now her name with be on the 2012 plaque! Makes me proud that I talked with her.

I also asked Melissa if she saw this job as a long-term career, or would she go on to something else in a year or two. “Oh, no! I wouldn’t leave. This is the most wonderful job in the world. Where else could I be so challenged to do my best? I never know who’s going to be on the other end of a call.”
My best advice to you after having seen the 911 center: 
Learn the non-emergency phone number of your local 911 center. 
In Gwinnett County GA, it's 770-513-5700
Program it into your speed-dial
  • If you see someone driving erratically, but there’s no accident, get the license plate and call the non-emergency number.
  • If you hear a gunshot in your neighborhood, but have no idea where it came from, call the non-emergency number.
  • If you’ve lost your wallet (or you find a wallet), call the non-emergency number.
  • If your neighbor’s barking dog is driving you nuts, call the non-emergency number.
Those are all important calls, but they are NOT emergencies, and will be answered as soon as an operator is available (one who is not handling an emergency).
  • If that driver causes an accident, call 911
  • If the gunshot comes from your neighbor’s house and you hear someone scream, call 911.
  • If the lost wallet is attached to a dead body, call 911.
  • If that dog attacks someone and you see it, call 911.
And if you’re driving down the road and your baby starts to make its way into the world, pull off to a safe place and call 911. They’ll dispatch an ambulance; but, if necessary, they can talk you through the delivery.
That’s nice to know, isn’t it?
BEEattitude for Day #535:
       Blessed are those who welcome a job that involves challenge, for they shall glow with a feeling of accomplishment when their workday is ended. We bees end every day like that.
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