A video released by the Salt Lake City Police Department gives the public an inside look into the police headquarter’s new 911 center.
Every month, Police Chief Chris Burbank releases a YouTube video highlighting some aspect of public safety. In his October "Chief’s Message," released Wednesday morning , Burbank interviews 911 center director Scott Freitag about the bells and whistles that callers would otherwise never know about.
When someone dialed 911 before, the call could be handed off to another dispatcher depending on the type of emergency it is. But this 911 center combines police, fire and emergency medical services calls, and Freitag explains in the video how a 911 call stays with the same dispatcher that answered the phone, decreasing the likelihood that the center will lose callers in transfers or that callers will have to repeat themselves to another dispatcher.
"When you call and you’re having an emergency, you really don’t want or even care to know what’s going behind the scenes, you just want to know that help is coming as quickly as it can," Freitag said.
Thanks to a new Internet-based system, dispatchers can also spread a flood of calls between other dispatch centers that are on the same system, so no one center has to put off a call because it is too busy. If a natural disaster hit and the dispatchers could not come to work at the Public Safety Building (at 475 S. 300 East), the Internet-based system allows them to log in at other centers and do the same job from there, Freitag explains in the video.
The new dispatch center also comes with color-coded lights at each desk to indicate how busy the dispatcher is. The supervisors, seated in an elevated portion of the center, can get a good feel for how operations are going with just a quick glance at all the lights around the room.
But it takes the center’s approximately 80 personnel to handle the estimated 550,000 calls a year.
"The most important thing about this [new center] is not the bells and whistles that we have inside the new building, it’s the people who work there that are important and actually make this function," Burbank says in the video, adding that "their care, compassion and ability to deal with any situation that walks in the door really sets them apart from anywhere else in the country."
The 911 center is only one of seven in the world with a triple-accreditation from the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch, and the only one in the state with the rating.
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