DEAR ABBY: I am a 911 dispatcher with some hints for your readers in case they need emergency services and must call 911.
PLEASE pay attention to where you are. The most important information we need is the address of the emergency. If you are on the highway, tell us the Interstate and closest mile marker, as well as your direction of travel. Many people assume that we can trace their number to their location. While that may be true for landline phones, it's not for cellphones. Only the cellphone company can "ping" a phone.
I would also like to caution parents about letting their children play with a deactivated phone. If you want to let them play or practice, first remove the battery. Many calls we receive come from kids playing on a deactivated phone, and we are unable to call those numbers back to verify if there's a legitimate emergency. These calls also tie up emergency lines for people who have a genuine emergency, making them wait longer for their call to be answered.
My last comment is this: If you dial 911 by accident, please tell the dispatcher that it was an accident. We never get angry if someone inadvertently dials us. Our job is to make sure the public is OK. If it was accidental, say so! Otherwise, we must call back to make sure there is not an emergency.
Those of us in this profession do this job not because we are getting rich, but because we want to help people. We are the most important link in getting people the help they need, but we cannot do it without knowing where the emergency is. Thanks for getting the word out! -- DISPATCHER IN NORTH CAROLINA
DEAR DISPATCHER: Thank you for your helpful suggestions. Readers, 911 dispatchers are the critical first contact for people needing help, but they cannot do their job unless they know where the emergency is and that the emergency is genuine. I hope you will take this person's suggestions to heart because they are important.