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When working to ensure our schools have the training they need to make your campus as safe as possible, one of the skills we cover is calling 9-1-1. This skill is frequently overlooked; many people assume that they don’t need to be reminded how to call a number and ask for help.
Really, there are a few things that need to be remembered when talking to a dispatcher, and in an emergency situation, those things can be easily forgotten. It’s worth taking the time to cover a simple skill to ensure that you’re able to use it in the future.
When you initially call 9-1-1, the dispatcher who takes your call will need to know quite a bit of vital information quickly. At Joffe, we break this information down into a series of questions that will either be directly asked or will need to be addressed independently.
When calling 9-1-1, you’ll want to give your full name and role, your position at the school, and any relationship you have to the incident (if you are a teacher of two fighting children, if you were the first person to find a child seizing, etc.).
Along with where you’re calling from, you’ll need to identify what kind of emergency service you’re calling to request. The dispatcher needs to know whether to send police, ambulance, fire, or a combination of services to respond to your emergency.
This will likely be one of the first questions asked by the dispatcher. While in police dramas on television, they’re able to triangulate a caller’s location in minutes, in real life, that process can take days, so it’s better to be able to give a clear location. Give your school’s name, address, and general location including identifying landmarks so that help can find you quickly.
Possibly the most important question on the list is why are you calling? You need to be able to clearly describe the situation to the dispatcher. Make sure you identify the incident, whether it’s a robbery, assault, argument, accident, or another situation. Give the most important details, such as the number of people involved and the severity of any injuries, first, then follow it with situational context if you are asked for it.
Describe how many people are involved, the severity of their injuries, whether there is any risk to surrounding areas, whether there were or are any weapons involved in the incident, and any other important, immediately useful information you can provide when asked. You should also specify whether or not anyone on site has any first aid training and what help has already been administered.
When calling 9-1-1, it’s very important that you do not hang up on the dispatcher. When under stress in an emergency situation, we have a tendency to talk quickly and sometimes even in a panic. Dispatchers will pause to listen and get as much information as possible before they speak. Don’t take this as a sign that they have all the information they need. Instead, wait until the dispatcher hangs up or tells you that it is safe to do so.
It’s best to arrange for someone to meet with 9-1-1 responders if possible. This allows them to know immediately that they are in the right location, and to have access to further details and information that they may need to assess and help with the situation at hand.
You will also need to listen carefully and follow any and all instructions given by the dispatcher. This can be anything from answering their questions about the situation to following their instructions for the application of first aid, all of which can make crucial differences in the time between when you call and when help arrives.