Nationally, April has been recognized by congress as 9-1-1 Education Month since 2008.
Darren Wolf is the communication center manager for the Bloomington Police Department, and he gave some insight into the need for 9-1-1 education.
“The main purpose of the National 9-1-1 Education Month is simply an education mission. We want the public to know the proper use of the 911 service,” Wolf said.
The Bloomington Police Department has been actively participating in the education month since the beginning, he added.
“We usually send out press releases, hold a campaign and go out to schools in the area to educate kids so they learn about proper 9-1-1 use at the right time,” he said.
This year, the main theme to the Bloomington campaign is an emphasis on knowing your location.
“That is the most critical piece of information for us as first responders. A lot of times it’s as simple as an address, but it may be an intersection of roads you are unfamiliar with,” he said. “You need to be aware of your surroundings.”
Wolf explained there is often a misconception that first responders automatically know your location when you call 9-1-1; however, with the increased popularity in cell phones, this is not the case.
“If you call from a landline we can usually find you easily but cell phones are difficult to track,” he said.
Other things to remember when calling 9-1-1 are to remember to remain calm, as challenging as it may be in stressful situations, and to listen to what the operator is saying, he said.
In 2013, the Bloomington Police Department took 25,000 emergency calls, which resulted in over 80,000 dispatched officers, fire fighters and paramedics.
Roughly 85 percent of those calls were for law enforcement, while the remaining 15 percent were for fire fighters.
“We also get a lot of calls [for non-emergency situations]. In 2013, we had over 4,000 calls that we consider to be 9-1-1 hang-ups or accidental and prank calls,” Wolf said. “These calls are concerning to us because we do send out officers to investigate, which ties up vital resources for serious emergencies.”
However, Wolf stressed to not be afraid to call 9-1-1 if you are unsure if a situation is an emergency. He said it is the police’s job to determine if the situation requires emergency help or not.
Locally there are consequences for prank calling 9-1-1. It can result, but often does not, in criminal or ordinance violations. Wolf said the Bloomington area does not have a major problem with this; however, punishment is still possible.
The best way to call 9-1-1 is from a phone, as the Bloomington-Normal area does not yet have texting capabilities. If you text 9-1-1 in our area you will simply receive a bounce-back message.
“As we catch up with technology we will have a texting 9-1-1 option like some other areas in the country; however, for now calling is the only way to reach us,” he added.
For more information on National 9-1-1 Education Month contact the Bloomington Police Department at (309) 434-2700.