February 04, 2018
Carbyne Staff

In the business of saving lives, every single second count. For emergency services and first responders, a traffic jam can be the difference between life and death. Every 911 Communication Center does its hardest to reduce the time it takes for first responders to arrive on the scene. In many cases, emergency services are slaves to the elements such as rain, fog, and snow that cause significant delays. However, there are some aspects that emergency services could implement to improve response times.

Relieve the Pressure

In 1997, the FCC mandated that there be a second toll-free phone number for non-emergency situations. This number, 311, began its slow roll-out throughout the United States and the results were immediate. A 2000 study of 311 adoption showed that calls to 9-1-1 dropped 50% during that time, that abandoned calls to 9-1-1 due to inability to reach an operator also dropped 50%, and that calls from dispatchers to police units in the field fell by 12%. These remarkable statistics show that, when given the option, people will contact non-emergency services and free up 9-1-1 lines for actual emergencies.


As all 911 operators know, not every call is equal. In fact, there are significant differences between a mass casualty event and a car having been broken in to. The fact that both calls have the same priority means that 911 dispatchers are often spending their time dealing with non-emergency calls while critical situations are delayed. There is also a significant amount of people who misdial 911, ‘butt dials,’ and never intend to contact emergency services. In fact, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently estimated that up to 50% of all calls made to 911 are accidental misdials. This means that between 80-90 million calls every year are pocket dials.With the inclusion of streaming video, 911 Call Takers can prioritize critical calls, such as a gunshot or terrorist attack, in place of a misdial. The ability to circumvent unimportant calls means that times to answer, and times to dispatch, are significantly reduced.

A multi-discipline approach, combining 311, prioritization, and streaming video, gives communication centers a variety of avenues to help cut dispatch times. Implementing enhanced technology such as video, introducing new practices such as prioritization, and relieving the pressure on the 911 service will all contribute to a significant reduction in dispatch times.

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