– Two Seattle 911 Centers?

Click to see calls to Seattle 911

Click to see calls to Seattle 911

Original post:  18 May 2008
We’ve opened a new fire alarm center (FAC) in Seattle – see yesterday’s blog entry.  This center accepts 911 calls for medical emergencies and fires – anything handled by the Seattle Fire Department.   There is a separate 911 center elsewhere in the City for 911 calls for police service and police dispatching.   How do we manage two separate centers?   The answer:  all 911 calls go to police first, and then, if the situation requires the fire department, the caller is “hot transfered” to the FAC.   “Hot transfer” means the police 911 call-taker stays on the line until the fire call-taker picks up the call.
Gee, this seems quite inefficient – we have two separate groups of folks answering 911 calls, two separate buildings, two separate telephone systems, two separate computer systems to enter the information (“computer-aided dispatch”) and so forth.   Isn’t this much more costly for Seattle taxpayers?
A long time ago, I thought so.   Many cities (e.g. Chicago) have a single 911 center where dispatchers and call takers for all three disciplines (police, fire, emergency medical) work.
But the philosophies and requirements have changed, largely after the San Francisco earthquake of 1989 and that event in New York City / the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.   Now almost every City has a backup 911 center – a separate physical location with a whole set of separate systems.   In most cities, this separate location just sits, unused, most days of the year.  It is only activated for testing and during those very rare occasions where some event makes the primary 911 center unusable.   Such events occur more often than one might think – they could include white power (anthrax) scares or power failures (including failure of backup systems), as well as disasters.
In Seattle we’ve chosen a different – and, in my opinion – wiser route.   Both our 911 centers are active and in use every day, 24 hours a day.   We KNOW all the backup systems work because they are constantly in use – we don’t just test the backup center once a year.   Once again Seattle leads – becoming the City most prepared to deal with a disaster.

1 Comment

Filed under 911, Seattle Fire Dept, Seattle Police

One response to “– Two Seattle 911 Centers?

  1. Richard L. Faina

    We are doing a study at our 911 center comparing stats from other centers. Could you help me or put me in touch with someone who could. For example:
    1. # of 911 calls received
    2. # of high priority calls (life ghreatening medical, in progress police, fire emergency)
    3. Response time (time called recxeived by 911 thru and including unit arrival time) to the high priority calls.
    Any questions feel free to call Rick Faina, Atlanta Police 911 Communications Administrative Office 404-817-2370
    Thanks

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