What you need to know when calling 911

No one wants to call 911, but if you need to phone for help there are a few things you should know to make it easier.

Knowing your location can be the most important thing to have on hand when calling 911.

“It will be difficult for us to send you help quickly if we are unable to locate you”,” said Sarah, a Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) Senior Communications Operator.

“Even knowing an intersection where you are or any kind major business that can give us a key location will help.”

Parents are encouraged to remind their children of their addresses so they know where they are calling from in the event they have to phone 911.

Sarah also said it is best if the person calling 911 is with the person needing help. She said sometimes relatives will call from a different location which makes it difficult to get accurate information.

Try to stay calm

“The big one, and it is a big ask, is to try to stay calm,” said Ben, a WFPS Communications Operator.

“It is easier to get information from someone if they are calm. The quicker that call gets sent out to the crews, the quicker they are on scene, and the quicker they get that help they need so badly.”

Ben said it is important for people to also know what number they are phoning from in the event the call gets disconnected.

“We ask the question hundreds of times a day and often time people tell us they are calling from their house or cell phone and they don’t actually give us the number,” he said.

911 is there to help you

If you need of help, call 911. Kara, a Winnipeg Police Service Call Taker, said people have called the non-emergency line when they should be calling 911 instead.

“Please, if you have something that you think is an emergency, if you feel your life may be in danger or someone else is, call 911.”

“That is what we are here for,” she said.

How 911 works

When you phone 911, the call is initially answered by the Winnipeg Police Service and is then triaged to determine the best emergency service to respond.

“First, they will ask you your address and then what is the nature of the emergency,” said Kara.

Depending on the emergency, the call will either be transferred to the WFPS Communications Centre or stay with police.

“Our main priority is the safety of our officers attending these incidents, and secondly your safety. So those are the two main priorities,” she said.

If the call is transferred to the WFPS Communications Centre, employees there will continue to ask questions so the best help can be dispatched.

“When you call, you will speak with a highly-trained telecommunicator skilled in medical dispatching and fire dispatching protocols,” said Chad, Supervisor at the WFPS Communications Centre. “A lot of the work they do is not seen by the public, or even the members in the field, and they work really hard together to make sure everyone is getting the help they need.”

Providing comfort

When answering 911 calls, employees never know what is on the other side. Sarah said what makes a good 911 operator is the ability to have empathy.

“Being able to give a little bit of help and comfort in a moment of crisis just feels really good at the end of the day,” she said.

Originally posted on April 15, 2019

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