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ASU's 911 system: how it works


December 01, 2010

Members of the university community who are involved in an emergency or are victims of a crime should call 911 immediately. Here are details on how the system works and when it should be used:

When should I call 911?                             

911 should be used in emergency situations.  An emergency is one that requires an immediate response from a police officer, fire department or ambulance personnel. Examples of this include: crimes in progress, motor vehicle accidents, fires, hazardous material spills, serious medical emergencies or injuries requiring an ambulance. 911 should not be used for information, directory assistance, loud noise complaints or as a prank. If 911 lines are used inappropriately, it may delay an emergency response for someone who is experiencing a true emergency.

How does the 911 system work?

The ASU Police Department communications center is equipped with Enhanced 911 capabilities. This means that when 911 is dialed from a non-cellular phone, the system automatically provides the dispatcher with the caller’s phone number, address, building name and emergency responders that cover the area. At the same time, this location is plotted onto a map. Both of these are used in conjunction with the Computer Aided Dispatching (CAD) system, which is used to track calls for service, hazardous information and record previous incidents or contacts at that location.

How does the 911 system work if I call from my cell phone?

The ASU Police Department’s system routes the phone call to the closest cell tower and the assigned police department for that area. When a 911 call is made from a cell phone, the dispatcher receives the wireless carrier’s name and 24-hour security phone number, the location of the cellular tower and the latitude/longitude coordinates of the phone (usually within a matter of feet).  It does not give elevation, so it will not identify which floor a caller is calling from. All of this information, along with the CAD mapping system, allow for the dispatcher to locate a caller even if they are moving or unable to provide a location. About half of the 911 calls received by the ASU Police Department are from cell phones.

It is important to be aware of your surroundings at all times.  Simply knowing the building name or a nearby landmark is sufficient to begin an emergency response. 

What if I am calling from a location different from where the emergency is occurring?

Give the dispatcher as much information as possible about the location where officers should respond.  If the information provided by the caller is completely different from what the 911 and mapping systems show, the dispatcher will send officers to the location identified by the caller, and sometimes to both locations. 

What if a caller to 911 doesn’t speak English?

The dispatcher can add an interpreter onto the phone call at any time. To expedite this process, a caller should immediately identify the language he/she is speaking.

What if the caller is deaf or hearing impaired?

The 911 system is equipped with a Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD).  If there is no sound heard on a 911 call, the dispatcher will check for a TDD call. To expedite this process, a hearing impaired caller can begin typing immediately to signal the dispatcher.

Do I have to dial 8 or 9 first when calling from an ASU phone?

No.  The system is programmed to recognize 911 with or without dialing 8 or 9.

What if I accidentally dial 911?

Stay on the line. If the dispatcher is unable to verify that there is no emergency, officers will be dispatched to check the location where the call originated.

What can I expect when I dial 911?

Dispatchers are trained to ask a series of questions to determine the appropriate emergency response. These questions may seem obvious or redundant to the caller, but they are necessary to ensure that the appropriate type of help is sent to the correct location. Basic questions a dispatcher will ask include: who, what, where, how and why. In an emergency, the dispatcher may take control of the call to obtain the most important information first. Their primary goal is to keep everyone safe.

If the caller has a medical emergency, the dispatcher will transfer the caller to the fire department. The fire department dispatcher will be able to provide medical instruction while the fire department and/or ambulance personnel are responding. Police department personnel also respond to these types of calls as needed.

Is the 911 system reliable?

The first 911 call was made in 1968. Since then, the system has evolved and incorporated new technology to keep our communities safe. As of 2010, more than 96 percent of the country was equipped with 911 service. 911 technology, combined with mapping and CAD technology and supported by trained dispatch professionals, provide the community with the most reliable systems available nationwide to assist in the event of an emergency.