9-1-1 in the News!

Normal Procedures for 9-1-1 Calls and Coronavirus Changes to Anticipate


Under normal circumstances a 9-1-1 phone call is reserved for an emergency that needs a response by the police department, fire department or medical assistance right away. Everyone from children to adults are taught and reminded that 9-1-1 calls by phone are reserved for serious, immediate needs. However, the tool is fundamentally influenced by how a caller perceives a situation occurring, and that subjectivity can sometimes lead to calls that don’t really meet the definition of a bona fide emergency. That then causes unnecessary load on emergency dispatchers and responders who have to filter these non-emergency calls out.

Recurring Education for Proper Usage

The National 9-1-1 Program was created and distributed to help local responders proactively get a handle on educating people on the better use of 9-1-1. Part of the education process involves reminding folks what is most likely a real emergency and examples of situations that are not. In addition, the Program also teaches the public that if a mistake is made, simply stay on the line and let the dispatcher know of the error. This is to avoid just hanging up and giving the impression to the dispatcher that there is an emergency happening and a first responder needs to be sent to confirm because the caller can’t talk anymore.

Expect Changes to 9-1-1 Response with Coronavirus

With the growing expansion of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) into the U.S., 9-1-1 procedures across the country are being updated to address the specific needs of response to the virus. This is in anticipation of members of the public calling for medical help when they feel the virus infection they may have is starting to run out of control. These procedures are based on the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When a caller dials in on 9-1-1 and states anything seemingly related to Coronavirus, the dispatcher will first confirm if the caller has a fever higher than 100 degrees and specific symptoms of a breathing/respiratory problem (i.e. coughing, choking, inability to breath properly). If the caller confirms “yes” or affirmative, the dispatcher will try to confirm if the caller has been in any areas or countries already known to have massive outbreaks in the last 14 days (mainly China, Italy, Iran, Japan and South Korea). Additionally, the dispatcher will also ask if the caller has been near anyone known to have tested positive for the Coronavirus. Again, if a “yes” answer is provided, all first responders dispatched will be notified of a potential risk of Coronavirus exposure with the caller.

Lifesaving Response is the Top Priority

The above questions will be asked when it is possible and applicable to the emergency being called in. The questions are not going to be applied right away if, for example, the emergency involves a situation of immediate, life-threating conditions and lifesaving intervention instructions need to be communicated over the phone. As first responders arrive to an address with a potential Coronavirus patient, they will take precautions and make preparations to address exposure risk correctly and per protocol. The dispatcher will continue to stay on the line with the patient until the responders arrive, explaining the same.

The Montgomery County Emergency Communication District (MCECD) provides the administration of the communications and technology infrastructure of the 9-1-1 system within Montgomery County, Texas. The administrative office of MCECD is located in Conroe, Texas, and can be found online at www.mc911.org .