Those who were able to, called 911 for help in Las Vegas Sunday night, but if the unthinkable were to happen in Erie County, are dispatchers prepared for the massive number of calls?
Telecommunicators are the heart of getting the information from witnesses and providing the information to first responders. It’s important the process go as smoothly and quickly as possible. Audio obtained from Las Vegas calls sounding like this, “Code red at .. we have shots fired… It’s coming from upstairs in the Mandalay Bay. Upstairs Mandalay Bay, half way up. I see the shots from Mandalay Bay.”
The influx of calls and fear something Erie County 911 Center continually prepares for through training. John Durlan, Assistant 911 Coordinator, says, “You can’t obviously simulate the real thing but as close as we can.”
John Grappy, 911 Coordinator says the training is “ultimately to be aware and receive additional training in the event that an active shooter incident would occur in Erie County.”
The Erie County Director of Public Safety showing us the key parts of the call center, saying they have 10 telecommunicators on the phones.
All 911 calls start like any other, however, calls in progress then take top priority. Durlan tells us, “When a 911 call is received for a shooting in progress, the officers are immediately dispatched and the 911 call-taker would return to question.” That questioning done through a computer-prompted process.
“If we can get information on where the active shooter is at the time, description, things like that, that information would need to be relayed directly to the officers in real time,” says Durlan. “Whereas, if it was somebody who couldn’t necessarily see the shooter, they would just be given the safety information and then the call-taker would have to move on to the next call.”
Cell phones now give more people access to call 911. Grappy tells us, “We handled over 167,000 calls in 2016. Over 73 percent are wireless or cell phone calls.”
Also, the evolving technology serving additional benefits in emergencies. “We can actually pinpoint the callers’ location based on latitude and longitude, even if the caller doesn’t know specifically where they’re calling from as they’re traveling through Erie County,” says Grappy.
The most important thing to remember in an emergency is to stay on the line no matter what until a telecommunicator can answer… and they will. “If, in fact, you call 911 and you enter the call waiting queue, you’re going to get a message rather than the phone keep ringing that you’ve reached Erie County 911 and to stay on the line. It’s not an answering machine,” Grappy tells us.
It’s impossible to be 100 percent ready for a tragedy or event like Las Vegas, no matter the training, but they try and be as best prepared if anything like that were to happen.