911 Center in Point Breeze Answers Calls of All Kinds Across County
Edgewood Police Chief Robert Payne and Mayor Ed Cook toured the facility Wednesday.
The Allegheny County 911 Communications Center is a well-oiled machine where emergency calls of all kinds are quickly answered, prioritized and assigned to the right people.
Edgewood Police Chief Robert Payne and Mayor Ed Cook visited the center Wednesday for a tour of the facility in an effort to explain to the public that dialing 911 should be the response for just about any emergency situation—large or small.
“If you don’t know what number to call—call 911,” said Rebecca Frazier, assistant communications manager at the center. “911 is the recognized universal number for emergencies.”
After a rash of recent car break-ins hit Edgewood streets, Payne and Cook are determined to prevent such widespread crimes from happening again by receiving more calls regarding suspicious activity in the future. If people see or hear something out of the ordinary and call 911, police can respond immediately. If they call Payne’s office number on a Friday, the message won’t be received for a day or more.
“When the chief gets calls on his voice mail, it does no good,” Cook said.
Whether it’s witnessing a fight between two people in a parking lot or hearing a loud noise, Payne doesn’t want people to hesitate in an age where there is no non-emergency number to call.
While addressing those concerns, Frazier’s answer to the problem was simple.
“The call will be processed,” she said. “We preach courtesy, compassion and understanding for every caller.”
Each call that comes into the 911 center, which is located in Point Breeze along with Allegheny County Police Headquarters, is first received by a call-taker, who is given a set of questions to ask and then answer through typing into a CAD computer program.
Their location is verified, along with other key bits of information needed before discussing the emergency itself.
The call is automatically tracked and mapped by the phone used, whether it’s a land line or a cell phone, and immediately sent to the computer screen of the dispatcher for the area. Those areas include North, South, East and the City of Pittsburgh. Each area of the Pittsburgh region has its own designated spot for dispatchers.
The dispatchers then connect with the correct emergency responders for the situation almost simultaneously as the call-takers continue to gather information to share.
911 Shift Commander Hank Caparelli said this weekend during the Pittsburgh Marathon, the center will be inundated with calls from residents trying to make it from one place to another.
“We’re here to help,” he said.
Those who work at the 911 center require a minimum of four months of training. Everyone involved in the call-taking process has the same software and computer program—which also gives everyone instructions that are read on how to do CPR. The center takes about 1.4 million calls a year and has 63 employees on duty at a time. About 250 people work at the 911 center, according to Frazier.
Payne and Cook are now discussing the possibility of organizing a town meeting in Edgewood with 911 dispatch commanders to discuss the issue as well.
Caparelli urged those are uncertain about making the call to do so whenever they are wondering if the emergency is severe enough.
“Another reason why we get away from the non-emergency number is because asking the public to differentiate between what is an emergency and what’s not an emergency isn’t fair,” he said. “So—just call.”