What happens when you call 911?

- A new 911 call center opened today in the City of Baytown. At an open house Wednesday evening, community members got a look inside what happens when someone calls for emergency help.

"Every call is life altering in the eyes of the caller," said Ray Pheris, Communications Coordinator, City of Baytown. "We have to respect that whenever they call us it could be the worst day of their lives."

The $8.8 million facility will house the city's 911 dispatch Call Center and Information Technology Department. It was built with space and resources to expand services as the community grows.

Baytown call center supervisors say all operators are cross-trained on multiple roles at the facility. They said all staff are in the process of being trained to walk callers through some basic emergency procedures.

Earlier this month, a Houston 911 operator was charged with hanging up on thousands of emergency calls.

When asked about accountability and quality control, a supervisor demonstrator how, with the click of a button, they can listen in on any operator to spot-check their work. In Baytown, supervisors are required to listen to a certain number of calls per month from each operator to ensure they are provide proper service. Policies like this are vary by city depending on department policy, they said.

Being a 911 operator is a high stress job, and requires a certain type of person.

"They have to be compassionate. They have to be passionate about what they do. They have to be technically savvy in order to handle the different systems that we use, and they have to make sure they can remain calm in a serious situation," said Pheris.

A popular spot for those touring the center was the Quiet Room. A massage chair, comfortable couch, and dim lights are available for operators to relax should they encounter a particularly stressful call.

We learned from multiple officials that a surprising number of 911 calls are butt dials or accidental calls, but if the line is silent they still send someone to check and make sure the caller is alright. If you can't make noise in emergency, most cellphone carrier allow you to text 911 to get help. Also, cellphone location data is far from precise. Your exact location is one of the most important bits of information gathered at the start of a call.

Finally, all operators and emergency responders emphasized that callers should always try to reach safety before dialing 911.

 

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