April is 9-1-1 Education Month
APRIL 1, 2016 - Governor Terry E. Branstad has designated April as 9-1-1 Education Month in Iowa.
Sponsored by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEMD) and the Iowa 9-1-1 Communications Council, 9-1-1 Education Month is an opportunity to demonstrate to all Iowans the importance of 9-1-1 and the role they play in ensuring effective emergency response.
Both the U.S. Congress and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) have recognized April as National 9-1-1 Education Month.
“It’s important that we teach our children when it is appropriate to dial 9-1-1, and what to tell the call taker when they do call,” said Blake DeRouchey, Iowa’s E911 program manager. “This is a practice that needs to be ingrained at an early age.”
DeRouchey also stressed that when anyone calls 9-1-1, they should try to stay calm and be aware of their location so they can assist 9-1-1 dispatchers in locating them, however, “It is more crucial to know your location when calling 9-1-1 if you are calling from a cell phone.”
When you dial 9-1-1 from a land-line phone, the address of the person calling will automatically come up on the 9-1-1 call taker’s computer screen. If you are calling from your cell phone, dispatchers cannot automatically locate you.
“Knowing your location when calling 9-1-1 from a cell phone will save valuable time and ensure that emergency responders arrive in a more timely manner,” DeRouchey iterated. “Minutes – even seconds can mean the difference between life and death.”
The FCC is currently working with wireless carriers to require improved location accuracy, and the State of Iowa is in the process of undergoing a geographic information systems (GIS) mapping project to improve precision in wireless location and call routing, but there may still be instances where the location of a 9-1-1 caller may take a while to display on the call taker’s screen.
Text-to-9-1-1 for mobile phones
HSEMD is nearing completion of an upgrade to Iowa’s 9-1-1 network to an end-to-end Internet Protocol (IP)-based network, which is more robust and capable of handling new messaging technology. Within the past year, 10 call centers in nine Iowa counties participated in a pilot program to test the new technology, which allows a cell phone user within county boundaries to contact 9-1-1 using text messaging.
“The technology is constantly changing, requiring the coordination of significant hardware and software upgrades,” said DeRouchey. “We’re still working to put all the pieces in place.” New technology will allow 9-1-1 call takers to receive text messages on their computer screens, with all the accompanying data they would receive if the call had originated from a land line.
Text-to-911 was developed primarily for citizens who are hard of hearing, deaf, or speech impaired. Texting can be used in situations in which a voice call to 9-1-1 would endanger the caller, such as during a home invasion or domestic situation. Sending a text to 9-1-1 can also be helpful in situations in which a medical condition makes it impossible for the caller to speak. Iowa’s IP-based 9-1-1 network will eventually allow citizens to contact 9-1-1 using video and picture messaging.
“Even when the technology is in place to allow you to text 9-1-1, it will still be best to call if at all possible if you need help,” DeRouchey stressed.
9-1-1 information and resources can be found on this website and also on the NENA website at www.nena.org under the “Standards/Resources” tab. Additional information will be available on HSEMD social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, throughout the month using hashtag #911education.
9-1-1 Public Service Announcements (Audio and Video)