“Back in the olden days, 18 months ago, much of the on-site emergency response coordination between departments had to be completed by telephone at the dispatch center,” said Steve Souder, the 9-1-1 Call Center’s director. Sometimes this would require multiple phone calls back and forth.
“Before cell phones, if an accident occurred on a highway, someone would have to drive to the next exit and get off to look for a pay phone,” Souder recalls. “The caller had to have coins available to place a call and once the 9-1-1 call was placed, hoped they remembered approximately where and in which direction the accident took place.” ....
The call is automatically assigned a code for the type of emergency—police only, fire, basic life service—and as the communicator enters details, that information immediately becomes available to police, fire and rescue dispatchers who place calls to responders.
Since all police, fire and rescue units are equipped with global positioning systems, dispatchers can immediately tell who is closest to the emergency. The police department can immediately pull up a history of responses for a given address. Public safety communicators also have instructions on how to walk the caller through life-saving techniques until responders arrive.
Answering 9-1-1 calls requires the ability to handle the more than 100 different languages spoken in Fairfax County. The county uses the services of Language Line headquartered in Monterey, CA to assist in taking the call.
The net result of all this should be faster response to emergencies, with long term effects on reduced deaths from accidents, reduced hospital costs from accidents, less property damage from fires, more effective police protection. Of course none of these gains will show up on the front page of the newspapers, nor will any be credited as more effective government.