Enhanced 911 sends rescuers right to the spot
For the City and County of Santa Fe, N.M., the ability to provide all residents with Enhanced 911 (E911) service has been one of the most important benefits of consolidating public safety communications into one Regional Emergency Communications Center (RECC). Enhanced 911 service — increasingly being rolled out by local public safety agencies across America — automatically provides emergency dispatchers with callers’ phone numbers and locations, allowing rapid dispatch of emergency units even if the caller is unable to speak.
“The power of E911 for public safety is faster response times. [It leaves] no question about where the emergency is located and how to get there,” explains Santa Fe County Fire Chief Stan Holden. “In day-to-day life, one or two minutes mean nothing. In public safety, one or two minutes can mean everything.”
Santa Fe city and county residents had basic 911 service prior to the opening of the consolidated regional communications center in July 2002. But response times could be significantly slower than they are today.
“Prior to the consolidation, the City of Santa Fe Police Department maintained the primary 911 communications,” explains Jerry Simpson, director of the Santa Fe RECC. “However, they were not able to dispatch all of the resources because county dispatch was handled by a separate Santa Fe County communications center. So the city police would receive a 911 call and then have to transfer that information to county communications for dispatch.
In some cases, responding to an emergency would require a tremendous amount of back-and-forth phone calls among communications centers and repeated radio calls between communications centers and the field.”
Today, the consolidated RECC receives “all the 911 calls for all the jurisdictions in Santa Fe, and because we are able dispatch for all of them, we are better able to serve the citizen,” Simpson says.
Essentially, the E911 system automatically provides “two pieces of information that are very critical when responding to a call,” explains Chief Holden — the automatic number identifier (ANI) and automatic location identifier (ALI), which public safety professionals typically refer to as “Annie Alley.” ANI and ALI work for all landline phones. Standard E911 equipment currently cannot provide a precise location for mobile phone calls; it only provides the location of the nearest cellular tower.
Santa Fe’s RECC will be able to use the ANI and ALI information in combination with its nearly completed geographic information system (GIS), which generates maps of emergency sites and the closest emergency response units. “The map comes right up on the dispatcher’s screen,” Holden explains. “So there’s no question about where the call is coming from, and there’s no question about where the closest resources are to send for the call.”