In cases of emergency a person calls a complete stranger for help. They dial 911 and are guided and comforted by that stranger until emergency crews can respond. The voices on the other end are Allen County 911 dispatchers.
One of those is Angela Murphy, Allen County 911 director. Murphy was the guest speaker at See, Hear Iola on Friday.
When a phone call comes in to dispatch it tracks the call by cell phone towers. This helps the dispatcher locate the caller in case they are unaware of their emergency location.
“We get a lot of calls from the Piqua and Neosho Falls area,” Murphy said. “We will send emergency assistance if needed before we transfer the call to Woodson County.”
The dispatchers must ask a series of questions to obtain adequate information about the situation. Murphy said this can often frustrate a caller but it is needed for emergency responders to fully assess the situation.
“A dispatcher may have only one opportunity to gather all the information about the emergency,” Murphy said. “It takes about 20 seconds to get a concrete address on a location which in an emergency can feel like forever.”
Murphy said in the last year the center has received 61,000 or about 167 calls a day. She couldn’t say which calls were dire emergencies compared to someone locking their keys in their car.
“Every call is an emergency to us and requires the same amount of response,” she said.
The Allen County Communication Center employees stress 911 calls should be taken seriously. Murphy shared with the See, Hear Iola audience that they have received some interesting calls before. One man called 911 because he had run out of minutes on his phone and it only allowed him to call an emergency number. He wanted to know when a liquor store closed and if he could catch a ride up there. A woman called dispatchers to report she had been robbed. She said she had paid for methamphetamines but realized it was crushed up aspirin.
To prepare a younger generation on the importance of using 911 Murphy and her staff visit kindergarten through third grade. They teach children how to answer questions that operators might ask and when it is and is not appropriate to call 911.
“When we meet these kids it makes them more comfortable,” she said. “Some of them think we’re heroes and work with the other heroes like police and firefighters.”
Murphy said parents should teach their children their full name, their parents’ full names, home address and telephone number. This information can be life-saving when a child is faced with an emergency.
THE COMMERCIAL speaker was Power Up Iola leader, Elyssa Jackson. Jackson said the group is a community organization of young adults who intentionally live in rural Kansas. The group recently organized the Back to School Block Party and raised $2,500 for community members battling cancer and serious injuries.
The next Power Up meeting is at 7 p.m. on Sept. 18 at Allen Community College.
“We want the young people who are here for the next two years to know they are welcome in our community,” Jackson said.