Problematic Behavior Or Activity
The 911 dispatch center receives an inordinate number of pocket dials to 911, baby calls to 911, non-emergent calls to 911, calls from citizens who do not know the location or address of the emergency, and when it is appropriate to call the non-emergency number instead of 911. In addition, the public needed to be made aware of the impending implementation of Text to 911.
Our agency is allotted thirteen 911 lines by the state. We have over 200,000 citizens in Jackson County. We frequently receive multiple 911 calls at any given time. It was imperative that we reduce the number or non-emergent calls to 911 in an effort to free up those thirteen lines for people with a valid emergency. We desperately needed to push the non-emergency number to the public.
In addition, we were taking numerous calls every day from citizens reporting an emergency but were no sure of the address of the emergency. With so many people having a cell phone only and no landline, we could not depend on caller ID for an address.
Lastly, we were on the cusp of implementing the ability to take Text Messages to 911 and needed to educate the public about when it would be appropriate to use this feature versus when it would be more prudent to make a voice call.
Our strategy was to rebrand our agency in preparation to to push our message by going out into the public and meeting the citizens face-to-face to chat with them about the issues at hand and recruit them to relay our message to all of their friends, neighbors and family members. We also wanted to invite citizen groups into our center to see for themselves what exactly we do and how we do it. In addition, we wanted to start a social media campaign in which would gain followers who we could then educate on these important matters.
Based On Research
APCO International: Public Education Tools for Telecommunicators
Since the inception of our program almost 21 months ago we have participated in or hosted 19 events. We distributed over 11,700 items all labeled with our non-emergency phone number. We have had personal contact with over 5,600 of our community members. Each of our social media posts reach anywhere from 100 people to over 16,000 people.
As a result we have seen a decrease in 911 calls and an increase in calls on our non-emergent lines over the past 2 years. In addition, during the first year of our program we decreased the number of pocket dials to 911 by over 4,400!
Critical Success Factors
We would not have gotten this program off the ground had it not been for DPSST awarding us with a $15,000 grant. We were able to purchase durable equipment and supplies that will last for years to come. Because of the immediate success of the program, we were able to attract a large group of dependable people which make up our Pub Ed Team.
You can keep your team engaged and interested in the program by making sure that everybody who wants to attend an event or speak at an engagement get that chance. Don’t always use the same 2-3 individuals, but make every effort to allow everybody a chance. Trust your team. We held our reigns pretty close at first, making sure that we had a member of management attend each event to make sure that our message to the public was consistent. Now, we send the team members out to events either in pairs or even alone with nobody in management tagging along. Since they feel trusted they are loyal, responsible and they feel important(which they are). Always listen to the ideas of your team members and try to implement them if possible so that they know they are a valued. Lastly, never make a unilateral decision, ask for their input and listen to them.