Prince George’s County Public Safety Communications 9-1-1 center processed over 1.5 million calls within the last year, with the majority of these calls answered within 10 seconds or less. The calls are processed by highly trained professional 9-1-1 call takers.
To ensure prompt and efficient service, 9-1-1 calls are processed through an automatic call distribution system to each call-taker, where the call for emergency services is handled. Each call taker is trained to handle Police and Fire/EMS calls; therefore, callers that require Fire Department or Emergency Medical Services response are not transferred to another agency when the call is answered.
There are occasions when call volume exceeds the number of call-takers. If all call-takers are busy on other calls, the 9-1-1 call is answered by an automatic call distributor that holds the call, initiates a recording instructing the caller not to hang up, and then automatically routes it to the first available call-taker. It is very important that callers remain on the line if the recording is initiated. The call will be answered by the next available 9-1-1 call taker.
If a caller hangs-up up before the call-taker answers, the computer system retains the caller’s phone number and address and presents the information to the 9-1-1 call taker. The call-taker will then attempt to call back to ensure there is no emergency. If there is no answer, a police officer will be dispatched to the caller’s address.
The advent of the cell phone has increased the call volume in 9-1-1 centers across the country, and also leads to potential delays in call processing. If there is an accident on the beltway, a brush fire on the side of the road or any other highly visible incident, passers by will call 9-1-1 to report the problem. The sudden spike in calls for the same incident causes delays in call processing because the number of calls exceeds the number of people to answer the phone. It also leads to the possibility that someone with another emergency will not get through.
9-1-1 is to be used for emergencies only. It should be used to report all fires, medical problems, life threatening situations, crimes in progress and crimes that just occurred. Do not dial 9-1-1 for a non-emergency situation that requires dispatch of public safety personnel. Instead, dial the 10- digit non-emergency telephone number (301)-352-1200. Examples of non-emergency incidents that requires dispatch of public safety personnel is a property damage accident, break-in to a vehicle or theft of property that occurred several hours ago, vandalism when suspect is gone, loud music or parties, or cars blocking the street or driveways.
Since 9-1-1 is a universal number, many citizens use this number to obtain information, request directions to homes or County facilities, request call transfers to other State, Municipal or County agencies, and for referrals to appropriate agencies. These calls account for approximately 10% of the calls processed in the 9-1-1 center. They also prevent 9-1-1 personnel from answering emergency calls that require immediate response. Even the one or two minutes it takes for a 9-1-1 call taker to transfer a citizen to the local police station or to refer a citizen to the appropriate agency may mean the difference between life and death of someone in a fire, suffering from a stroke, or experiencing a violent attack.