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What school leaders need to know about 9-1-1 operations

9-1-1 is a critical component of an effective active shooter response plan

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Beyond understanding the need to dial 9-1-1 in an emergency, many people are not familiar with how emergency dispatch works. Unfortunately, this is also true for many school administrators who are tasked with evaluating and implementing technologies and procedures for use in active shooter scenarios.

It is strongly encouraged that school administrators work closely with their local law enforcement agency and 9-1-1 center to develop a solution that works best for their specific situation. With this in mind, the following are a few key points to consider.

In the United States, 9-1-1 calls are routed based on the caller’s location to one of approximately 6,400 public safety answering points (PSAPs). Depending on a school’s locality, 9-1-1 calls from different facilities in a district may go to one or more different PSAPs. Those calls are answered by professionals trained to quickly analyze the situation and dispatch the correct resources to the correct location.

The 9-1-1 call-taker /dispatcher answering the call has access to all of the different responders in the area (law enforcement, fire and EMS) via radio and other communication tools. Many centers also have tracking systems which allow the dispatcher to see locations and statuses of all those responders in real time.

Most don’t realize that within seconds of receiving a call for help, and while still asking questions of the caller to better ascertain the situation, the dispatcher is already directing the necessary resources to the scene of the incident and engaging others are needed. It is important to understand that 9-1-1 is effectively “incident command” for the length of most active shooter scenarios (the average lasting less than 12 minutes). 9-1-1 is skillfully coordinating the response as units arrive on scene, assess the situation, report back and request additional resources.

(Next page: Three important considerations for school safety)

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