911: when in doubt, ring it out

Base Defense Operations Center controllers from the 23d Security Forces Squadron and Emergency Control Center dispatchers from the 23d Civil Engineer Squadron man their terminals, Nov. 1, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. These Airmen recieve alerts and phone calls, then coordinate a timely response. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider)

Base Defense Operations Center controllers from the 23d Security Forces Squadron and Emergency Control Center dispatchers from the 23d Civil Engineer Squadron man their terminals, Nov. 1, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. These Airmen recieve alerts and phone calls, then coordinate a timely response. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Three numbers. 911. That’s all that one needs to remember.

However, with various emergency response resources within direct reach on base, Airmen can easily forget to utilize these three numbers. In order to receive help as quickly and efficiently as possible, it is important to dial 911 immediately when involved in an emergency situation.

“An emergency is any situation where law enforcement, fire department, or medical personnel are needed right away,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Powell, 23d Civil Engineer Squadron NCO in charge of the Emergency Communications Center (ECC). “We always say ‘when in doubt, ring it out,’ [meaning] if you are unsure of whether your situation is an emergency, go ahead and call 911. We’re your friends and we’re here to help.”

Since the start of the calendar year, 74 percent of all fire emergencies and 35 percent of all medical emergencies on Moody were called in through the administration line. Calls to this line are prioritized differently, which can cause a delay in emergency response.

“While our unit handles [fire] emergencies the majority of the time, we also take civil engineering [equipment] service calls,” said Eric Mortensen, 23d CES assistant chief of fire prevention. “With this in mind, we could be on the phone with someone who’s complaining about a clogged toilet [meanwhile someone is on hold] because their child is choking.

“Had that person with the choking child called the 911 line, we would immediately put the clogged toilet complaint down and send help before the child possibly loses their life,” Mortensen added.

Calling 911 in the event of an emergency can not only be the difference between life and death, it also helps the dispatcher on the other side of the phone.

“Nobody likes a pop quiz, especially when you have someone’s life in your hands,” said Powell. “When a call comes in through the 911 line, it automatically puts the dispatcher in the right state of mind to handle an emergency.”

At that point, if a person is calling from a landline on Moody, then the dispatcher will answer “Moody 911, what is your location?” However, if a person is calling from their cell phone while on base then they may reach the local county’s dispatcher. The caller should immediately tell the dispatcher that they are on base so that they can be connected to the ECC.

After a Moody dispatcher takes control of the call, they are able to use a system known as Enhanced 911. Through this system, when someone calls 911 from a landline, the dispatchers automatically detect the building that the person called from as well as their phone number. However, if a person is calling from a cell phone, the system only displays their phone number so it is important for callers to mention their location.

This Enhanced 911 system is especially beneficial in the case that an emergency call is dropped. With the provided information, dispatchers can contact the caller back or immediately send officials to the scene.

“We have the 911 hang-up policy in place in the case that a caller may be in distress and unable to speak, but still needs help sent,” said Mortensen. “With this in mind, a dispatcher cannot decipher between an emergency and an accident so if someone calls 911 by accident and hangs up, dispatchers will still call back or immediately send help if the location is known.

“Because of this, if a caller dials 911 by accident, it is important to stay on the line until speaking to a dispatcher,” Mortensen added.

In either case, callers will not face reprimand for calling 911 in a non-emergency situation.

“It’s better to feel that we showed up and were not needed than to have a situation get out of control without us there,” said Mortensen.

Although an incident may seem to be minor in the moment, according to Mortensen, minor emergencies can escalate quickly so those involved in or around an emergency situation should immediately dial 911 so proper authorities may take control.