Oct. 2-PAC meeting report: 911 Emergency Center

The meeting was called to order by Larry Ranallo at 6:20. 20 people attending.
Amy Sizer and Laurie Thomas from the Minneapolis Emergency Communications Center,  joined us. Ms. Sizer, our  presenter, has been with the MECC for 15 years.
The Minneapolis Emergency Communications Center, located in City Hall, is probably the best known Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) in the area, but actually there are 15 other PSAPs in the 9 county area including the University of MN, Hennepin County EMS, North Memorial Ambulance. The MECC works closely with the others. It’s the Minneapolis center that handles most Minneapolis 911 calls and dispatches help for Minneapolis, but it’s the location of the call that determines which Center acts on it. For example, if you call from the freeway, most of the time Hennepin County will take the call, but if the MECC gets a call and feels it should go to (e.g.) U of MN,  the MECC routes the call there. (The caller does not have to call again.)
The staff includes 59 dispatchers (used to be 69), 9 supervisors, 1 operations manager, 1 training and quality manager, 1 training & quality specialist and 4 administrative staff members.
Yes they are hiring.  They look for people who have a background in customer service, but that isn’t a requirement.  Staff receives all in-house training.
Each dispatcher must successfully complete as much as 560 hours of classroom training and 1 on 1 coaching before they are permitted to answer a 911 without direct supervision. This training includes learning basic medical terminology, computer skills, what constitutes good customer service, the geography of the area. Those that go on to dispatcher level take an additional 440 hours of training in classroom and one on one coaching for Police Dispatch or 128 hours for Fire Dispatch.
What happens when a call comes in: Calls are received by call takers and monitored by dispatchers — stations are set up with three monitors so both taker and dispatcher know what’s happening. In smaller agencies, the taker may do the dispatching. The MECC wants the call taker to stay on the phone with you in case your situation is changing and new information needs to be relayed. The call taker monitors information and doesn’t spent time dispatching. The dispatcher can then focus on the dispatch and not worry about the caller hanging up or missing new information.
The MECC has 6 overlapping responsibilities: 1) Answer 911 calls; 2) Answer other 10-digit non-emergency calls. They are trying to move more of those to 311 (but if you’re not sure, call 911 and we’ll figure out where the call should go); 3) Dispatch Police, Fire and EMS; 4) Provide support services to the MPD; 5) Track and report events on the SpotShotter & Bait Vehicle programs; 6) Manage data practices requests and Data Administration.
The MECC’s internal customers include the MPD, the MPRB-PD, MFD, Hennepin EMS, North Memorial EMS. QUESTION: how do you work with  MPRB police?  ANSWER: we don’t dispatch them but do work with them all the time, monitor their data.
Working statistics:  in 2017 the MECC answered 578371 phone calls (over 1,550/day), dispatched 41,985 fire trucks, and dispatched 382,589 police responses. And when the going is tougher, as after the NoMi 2011 tornado, they handled more than 700 calls in the first hour.  Between 2:15 and 5:45 PM that day, they responded to 2023 calls. (This was on a day and at a time when there were only 13 operators, 3 fire dispatchers + 2 MFD captains, 6 police dispatchers and 2 supervisors).
When YOU make a 911 call:
KNOW WHEN to call:  Call for any event that requires  the police, fire dept., or an ambulance.
KNOW WHAT to say: Know your location. People think their phones can be located, but DON’T trust that.  Answer all questions and follow the directions you get from the operator even if it doesn’t make sense to you; the operator is asking because the people responding to your call want and need the answers to those questions. Stay calm, so you can speak slowly and clearly. DO NOT HANG UP until the 911 dispatchers says it is OK to hang up.
The 911 office can handle 21 languages, European, Asian, and African.
Technology: in 1990 fewer than 10% of all calls were from cell phones. Today the number is 70%.
In answer to a question:  Sometimes MECC dispatches when a caller doesn’t (or can’t) give a location. Cellphones do give approximate location within 50 yards, so we may dispatch a squad to circle the area. We may get a call and all we can hear is someone screaming or perhaps we hear nothing. In that case, we go a step further and get information from the phone company, billing address or whatever the company might have. We’ll get as much as we can from the phone and send it over to dispatch.
The next generation is already arriving as Text-to-911 has been implemented state-wide, but there are drawbacks as location is not as accurate so a caller still needs to know her exact location. The next technology upgrade will permit video and data transmission.
The last few years we’ve had gained in-state inter-agency communication protocols, so if someone [out state]  has a flood or other big event, the MECC can go up there and help.
Fire Chief Fruetel recently presented the new van-size Fire Dept response vehicles, staffed by EMTs.  As always, the 911 call-taker will ask  two important questions about people who need medical attention: “Is the person awake?  Is she breathing normally?” Before the new, smaller vehicles were put into service, if the answer was “yes” MECC  would dispatch an ambulance. Now if the answers are “Yes” we’ll start with the van rescue vehicle and let the EMTs  aboardask their questions and decide about the ambulance based on what they find.
Chief Fruetel was quoted as saying that 80% of the runs with the full fire truck, were for non-emergency runs.  (Sprained ankles and such).  Now the rigs are available for dispatch to fires.
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