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Emergency Dispatch Public Education

Communication Center 

News from the Oak Lawn Emergency Communications Center Public Education Team

How 911 Dispatch Works

How does my call get to 9-1-1? 

When you call from a phone at a residence, business, or other land-based phone,  the phone number from which you are calling determines which 9-1-1 center the call receives the call for assistance.  Cell phone calls are processed differently, though there are similarities.  Cell phones transmit a signal to the nearest cellular tower.  The signal is transmitted to the closest 9-1-1 center, as determined by the location of the cell tower that receives the incoming call.  Sometimes cell phone calls are not routed to the correct 9-1-1 call center; however, 9-1-1 staffs are trained to direct your call to the correct center to get the help you need.

Why Telecommunicators ask so many questions. 

When a citizen calls 911 they will be asked a series of questions that will provide important information to the responding Police department or Fire departments. Oak Lawn Central Emergency Communications Center has multiple Telecommunicators handling 911 calls and dispatching the Police or Fire departments.  While a Telecommunicator is asking a caller questions, another Telecommunicator is dispatching the police or fire department to help. 

Below is a list of some questions a citizen can expect they will be asked when they call:

WHERE

Ascertaining “where” an incident is located is the first priority of the Telecommunicator.   If the location is determined, then help can be sent even though the nature is unknown. 

Where includes information on:

Where the incident is located?  Address of residence (house or apartment); business (name); confirmation of what Village or City; alley; under the stairs; on the porch; on the balcony; next to; etc. 

Where the caller is calling from?

The location of the suspect(s) & direction of travel.

The location of the victim(s). 

The location of any weapons. 

 

WHAT

“What is the problem, tell me exactly what happened?”   

“What” is one of the ingredients that allow the Telecommunicator to determine the dispatch priority.  “What” also determines the severity or potential severity of the situation being reported.  

 

WHEN

“When” provides essential information to gain a better understanding of the situation being reported.   It is also part of the information needed to determine the priority of a call. 

It must be determined approximately when the incident occurred if it is not clearly stated by the caller. 

 

WHO

The “Who” question will lead the Telecommunicator to questions about descriptions of suspect(s) and any associated vehicle(s).

When taking a description of a person, we attempt to get the description of the person’s physical descriptors first.  This includes race, sex, age, height and weight.  When the physical descriptors are complete, we follow with a description of the clothing starting at the top and moving to the bottom.  

“Weapons” is always asked if the call has the potential for becoming a volatile, violent situation. The Telecommunicator needs to find out if there are any weapons being used, threatened, seen or available.