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Sacramento County Sheriff's 9-1-1 Dispatch Office and Sacramento Regional Fire/Emergency Medical Service Communications Center (SRFECC)

    On September 10, 1998, the 1998-1999 Sacramento County Grand Jury visited the 9-1-1 Dispatch Office operated by the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department and located at 711 G St. in Sacramento, and on October 1, 1998, visited the Sacramento Regional Fire/Emergency Medical Service Communications Center (known as the SRFECC), located at 10230 Systems Parkway in Rancho Cordova.

    History

    The three-digit emergency number concept was developed in Great Britain in the late 1930s when 999 was used to request police, fire, and emergency medical services. In 1957, the U.S. National Association of Fire Chiefs formally recommended the development of a universal emergency telephone number. Since 1968, all telephone companies in the United States have provided 9-1-1 service to any community that wished to implement an emergency 9-1-1 response program. Systems have been established in approximately 75 percent of the cities and towns in the United States.

    Background

    The Grand Jury was told that the Sacramento County 9-1-1 emergency response system became operational in 1985. Sacramento County's 9-1-1 Dispatch Office opened in 1992. It has the ability to accommodate up to 16 operators and is the largest 9-1-1 operation in Northern California. This center receives and monitors all 9-1-1 calls from land-line telephones. Cellular 9-1-1 calls are routed through the California Highway Patrol (CHP). There are no plans to change this procedure because most of the cellular calls are for vehicular emergencies and the CHP is responsible for highway safety.

    Did You Know . . .

    By 2001, the 9-1-1 emergency response system will be able to triangulate cellular calls to determine the location of emergencies, and the SRFECC plans to equip its ambulances with Global Positioning System (GPS) devices.

    The SRFECC is an emergency resource center, dedicated to providing prompt, accurate and reliable service to both its member and contracting agencies, other emergency service providers and the general public. Remodeled in 1995, its interior design is now more efficient. Receiving noncriminal truncated calls from the 9-1-1 Dispatch Office and the CHP, the SRFECC is set to accommodate an average of one call per person per year from land-line telephones. The Grand Jury was told that the SRFECC anticipated growth of 8 percent per year but cellular responses may exceed that growth by ten to 15 percent!

    Observations

    The 9-1-1 Dispatch Office receives between 800 and 900 calls per 24-hour period, with the peak load occurring during the evening and nighttime hours. Operators are trained for four to six months to learn how to determine the level of the emergency and the appropriate response. It is a state-of-the-art system with several unique features, including immediate access to Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD) and a wide variety of foreign languages. The Grand Jury was told that the Y2K (Year 2000) computer operations problem has been addressed.

    The Grand Jury observed that SRFECC personnel operate under a self-imposed standard of answering all calls by the second ring. Services are directed through a cooperative arrangement to any district in need; the nearest available resource is dispatched with emphasis on response time instead of boundaries. The training given to the dispatchers consists of two months on the telephones, three to four weeks training at a radio communications academy and finally one-on-one training.

    Finding and Recommendation

    Finding #1: The Grand Jury found that, at the time of its visit and according to the Sheriff's Department, about 53 percent of the 9-1-1 calls were not emergencies. Further, 9-1-1 has been used by the public to request information on where to purchase concert tickets; information on traffic conditions; the correct time; and to register complaints about excessive noise or abandoned vehicles. Administrators cited several reasons for the increase in non-emergency calls: Most people are aware that dialing 9-1-1 will route them to a public service agency they wish to contact; 9-1-1 is a simple number to call as opposed to a standard, non-emergency seven-digit number; information about, and access to, seven-digit non-emergency numbers for police and fire departments have not been readily available; and recent increased numbers of residents with limited English comprehension have affected the volume of non-emergency calls since many use 9-1-1 as if it were a general information number.

    Recommendation #1: The Grand Jury, believing it is possible to reduce the number of non-emergency 9-1-1 calls, recommends that the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department re-educate the public on the proper use of 9-1-1.

    No Response is Required.

    Did You Know...

    As of November 3, 1998, the SRFECC took over the responsibility for responding to emergency calls from McClellan Air Force Base.

1998/99 Sacramento County Grand Jury - Final Report (Internet Version) June 30, 1999

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