Monday, July 14, 2008

The 911 Script

Yesterday at 11 AM, Adams Morgan again became the wild west as a Latino male was shot in broad daylight. The Prince of Petworth's story has an excellent account of the events in the comments.

There's also a bit of discussion there about the way the 911 operator handled the call. I was immediately reminded of the last time I called 911. They said the operator would not dispatch police until being given a street address. My own experience was similar. I told them I was on 11th Street NW between Park and Monroe. After negotiating about whether it was Park Place or Park Road for a while, they demanded a block number (which luckily I know because I live a couple blocks away) despite the fact that I'd told them it was halfway between two streets.

By the way there is a Park Place in DC - but it sure as hell doesn't intersect with 11th, in fact, it's parallel. If you put 11th and Park NW into Google Maps, it pulls up the right place in a second. Apparently, 911 operators don't have internet access.

I am sure there's some reason for this amount of anal retentiveness when fielding 911 calls, but whatever it is, it's not good enough. When you call 911, you're freaked out. That's why you called - because there's a crisis or all bloody hell is breaking loose. You don't have time to look for street numbers on nearby buildings, if there even were any to be found. You don't have time to go to the corner and look at the block number on a street sign, if there even is a street sign.

I understand if people give ambiguous directions or don't say the quadrant. But that is not the case in these situations. If you give a 911 operator an intersection, or a block between two streets, there should be no reason for any further discussion. This is how we tell cabs where we are going, this is how we describe locations to our friends. It works. Just. Fine.

This situation delays police response and frustrates people to no end. Why can't this be fixed?


Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I have linked to this at The DC Feed.

Capitol Hill 20210 said...

Good Post, but that area also has substantial amount of gangs - rival gangs at that -- it is summer and they usually shoot each other with more frequency - its a sad fact.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't 911 have the ablitiy to access your location via GPS in your phone? I thought that's why all cell phones have GPS - even if you yourself can't actually use it as a feature (without paying). Remember all those stories of the 3 year old or the dog dialing 911?

So maybe next time when they seem unable to understand you when you state your street address or location, just leave the cell phone on while saying "arrghhh...can't....speak....." Eventually, they'll figure out where you are by themselves....