When you dial 911, your call is taken by the highly trained personnel at the Whatcom County Communications Center (What-Comm) and Prospect Communication Center located in Bellingham. These professionals receive and direct the emergency information to the proper resources in the district that has jurisdiction. What-Comm is responsible for all of Whatcom County 911 answering. If an 911 call is deemed a medical or fire emergency, the call will be immediately transferred to the Prospect Communication Center which dispatches medical and fire incidents.
The number of 911 calls placed by people using wireless phones has radically increased. Public safety personnel estimate that about 50 percent of the millions of 911 calls they receive daily are placed from wireless phones, and that percentage is growing.
For many Americans, the ability to call 911 for help in an emergency is one of the main reasons they own a wireless phone. Other wireless 911 calls come from “Good Samaritans” reporting traffic accidents, crimes or other emergencies. Prompt delivery of these and other wireless 911 calls to public safety organizations benefits the public by promoting safety of life and property.
Unique Challenges Posed by Wireless Phones
While wireless phones can be an important public safety tool, they also create unique challenges for public safety and emergency response personnel and for wireless service providers. Because wireless phones are mobile, they are not associated with one fixed location or address. A caller using a wireless phone could be calling from anywhere. While the location of the cell site closest to the caller may provide a very general indication of the caller’s location, that information is not usually specific enough for rescue personnel to deliver assistance to the caller quickly.
When dialing 911 from a cell phone, remember the following:
- Tell the emergency operator the location of the emergency right away.
- Give the emergency operator your wireless phone number so that, if the call gets disconnected, the operator can call you back.
- If your wireless phone is not “initialized” (meaning you do not have a contract for service with a wireless service provider), and your emergency call gets disconnected, you must call the emergency operator back because the operator does not have your telephone number and cannot contact you.
- Refrain from programming your phone to automatically dial 911 when one button, such as the “9” key, is pressed. Unintentional wireless 911 calls, which often occur when auto-dial keys are inadvertently pressed, cause problems for emergency call centers.
- If your wireless phone came pre-programmed with the auto-dial 911 feature already turned on, turn off this feature. Check your user manual to find out how.
- Lock your keypad when you’re not using your wireless phone. This action also prevents accidental calls to 911.
Also, consider creating a contact in your wireless phone’s memory with the name “ICE” (in Case of Emergency) listing the phone numbers of people you want to be notified if there is an emergency.