What is 9-1-1?
Dialing 911 is an IMMEDIATE way to contact local emergency services (law enforcement, fire or medical) during an emergency. The 911 system is intended to become a nationwide emergency telephone number as a public service with the primary objective of preserving life and property. Ideally, nearly every American citizen, and visitor to this country, who has access to a telephone, may summon aid by dialing this simple three-digit number, regardless of location, familiarity with an area, time of day or type of emergency. The 911 system is a "TEAM" of professional men and women who are on call 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week, 365 days-a-year. These people are trained to assist in getting emergency help to you as quickly as possible.
The History of 9-1-1
In the earliest days of telephone technology all calls were operator-assisted. The caller picked up the telephone receiver and the operator answered with “number please”. The caller then either asked to be connected to a particular number or simply asked “get me the police”, “I want to report a fire”, or “I need an ambulance” in the case of an emergency. It was not even necessary to know the numbers. The operator usually not only knew those emergency numbers, but also the numbers for the town’s veterinarian, and even private citizens who were able to help in an emergency. When rotary dial or automatic telephones were implemented many people worried about the lack of personal service that they had previously experienced. This problem was partially solved by allowing people to dial “0” for the operator if they did not know the full emergency number they needed. People were encouraged to dial emergency services directly, but this caused problems when callers were not certain of their location or when emergency services on one side of a street was different from the other side due to city boundaries. It became easier to call the operator. The telephone companies finally had to abandon publicizing “dial 0 for emergencies” due to company staffing and liability concerns. Children are now taught to dial 9-1-1 for an emergency just as they used to be taught to call the operator. The 9-1-1 number was chosen by AT&T (who had been using 2-1-1, 4-1-1, and 6-1-1 since the 1920’s) in 1968. It was easy to remember but difficult to dial accidentally, as the numbers were on opposite ends of the rotary phone. Only about 4% of the United States still does not have 9-1-1 service.
Martin County 9-1-1
After much anticipation, Martin County is finally enjoying the privileges of the 9-1-1 system. At first, everything about the 9-1-1 system seemed to be anything but a privilege. In fact, to the public, I am sure this seemed more of an annoyance than anything else. The extra charge on phone bills and the necessary readdressing of a great percentage of the residences of Martin County has not been readily accepted by many citizens.
The process of developing the 9-1-1 system was lengthier than the citizens of Martin County probably even realize. It has also been more costly than most realize. Understandably, citizens may feel they have been paying for this service for a long time; however, this has been a necessity. The average citizens of Martin County are not aware of the cost of operation, equipment, aerial photography, and upkeep. Not to mention, the aerial photography is already approximately seven years old and in need of updating; another enormous cost. If your home has been established in the past seven years it will not be on our photography. We were the last county in Indiana to get the benefit of a 9-1-1 system. We did receive a good deal of grant money to help with the expense. If we had not started the process when we did we would have missed the opportunity to receive these grants, and the state would have still made it mandatory to establish the 9-1-1 system, without the help from the grants we received.
This process seemed to move along slowly to most citizens in the county. Those that operate 9-1-1 were also in anticipation for quite some time. The difference is that those that work the system were able to see how much preparation it took. We were at least able to see the progress as time went on.
This system enables us to actually see an aerial view picture of the location you are calling from and the phone number you are calling from when you dial 9-1-1, and follow the necessary roads to locate you if necessary. This is particularly helpful if you call 9-1-1 for assistance and then lose connection for any reason. Once we have answered the 9-1-1 phone we have your location and number even if you are disconnected.
The advantages we now have with the 9-1-1 system far outweigh the burdens of implementing the new addresses and this emergency response system. Now we need to use this system responsibly. The Sheriff’s Department has already received numerous calls from cell phones ranging from emergencies, to wanting to know if school is on a two-hour delay. 9-1-1 calls come in on a machine called a PSAP. This is an acronym for Public Safety Answering Point. This is for emergency assistance from police, fire, and ambulance services. Misuse of the 9-1-1 system can result in criminal charges. Citizens in Martin County have always called the administrative number for the sheriff’s department for general complaints. 9-1-1 is not the new number for the sheriff’s department. This is an additional number that is for emergency purposes only. If you use this number for any other reasons you could be diverting the dispatcher’s immediate attention from someone who is actually in need of emergency assistance.