San Mateo County 911 dispatchers are going for the “gold” standard with a new automated system that puts officer and caller safety at top priority.
The emergency police protocol, created in 2001 by the National Academy of Emergency Dispatch, provides for more-efficient and accurate responses to emergency calls.
According to Communications Center Director Jaime Young, law enforcement dispatchers at the Redwood City location now have a scripted format of asking questions to callers that will allow for expedited responses. The automated system gives dispatchers the ability to collect information in a consistent manner while also tending to the safety of the callers.
“This new system ensures that first responders have all the information they need because it guarantees that high-priority questions have been asked,” Young said.
While the scripted system allows dispatchers to be consistent in delivering information from person to person, pre-arrival instructions ensure that callers remain safe and that there is evidence preservation at the crime scene.
“The two most important things that come out of this are officer and caller safety,” Young said. “For officer safety, we ask upfront after the address if there are any weapons involved, and then we ask if the caller is in danger. We can then assist the caller on the phone until officers arrive at the scene.”
A total of 54 dispatchers have each undergone 28 hours of software training at the National Academy of Emergency Dispatch as well as an additional 32 hours of interdepartmental training, Young said. Dispatchers will also get continuous feedback as they use the software, since quality improvement procedures are included in the system.
According to Young, county dispatchers field about 156,000 calls a year, most commonly alarms, disturbances and welfare checks. The new software will make it easier for dispatchers to place a call within one of 35 categories, such as abduction, alarm, bomb threat, missing person, assault or theft, as the scripted questions are asked based on priority of information.
Young said the Redwood City location is already nationally recognized as a center of excellence in medical protocols, meaning the county complies with call administration and quality-improvement aspects of the program. With the addition of this new software for dispatchers, the county hopes to add the center of excellence for law enforcement protocols to its rankings.
“This is the gold standard in our industry,” Young said. “If we achieve this, we are distinguished from those that don’t have it and it shows that we are providing the highest level of service we can to the citizens and the people we dispatch for.”
The San Mateo County Communications Center in Redwood City serves as the 911 dispatcher for the Sheriff’s Department and East Palo Alto, Half Moon Bay, Millbrae, Broadmoor and transit police.
156,000: Emergency calls fielded annually by center
54: Dispatchers at center
28: Hours of software training for program
32: Hours of interdepartmental training for program
35: Categories calls can be sorted into
Source: San Mateo County