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How To Be Compliant with the Ray Baum’s Act

How To Be Compliant with the Ray Baum’s Act

Whenever there is a discussion of Kari’s Law, there is usually a mention of the Ray Baum’s Act. This act talks about FCC requirements for a variety of organizations and buildings that utilize multi-line telephone systems, like those found in businesses, hospitals, and schools.

Ray Baum’s is named for the lawyer Ray Baum, who served on a congressional staff and advocated for the telecommunications industry throughout his career. Though he passed away in 2018, the act was named to honor his accomplishments in furthering telecommunications goals all over the country. 

What does the Ray Baum’s Act require?

The total act touches on a lot of topics involving communications standards, but what should interest you as one of the businesses listed above is Section 506. This section discusses emergency services mandates directed at the FCC to require organizations that use a MLTS to include a “dispatchable location.”

What is a dispatchable location?

According to the FCC, dispatchable location includes the “validated street address of the 911 calling party, plus additional information such as suite, apartment, or similar information necessary to adequately identify the caller’s location.” Currently, when a student, patient, or office worker calls 911 on a phone that utilizes a MLTS, the 911 public safety answering point will receive the address that is registered with the system. Therefore, if a campus is made of multiple buildings, 911 would receive the registered address, which may not be the location of the caller. By requiring a dispatchable location, not only will 911 know the correct street address, but it will also receive the floor level and/or suite number.

Are you compliant?

To become compliant with Section 506 of the Ray Baum’s Act (and Kari’s Law for that matter), you can start by connecting with your 9-1-1 authority. If your business is located within the NCT9-1-1 service area, you can connect with us about Ray Baum’s compliance by visiting this resource page.

What is the history of 911 in Texas?

What is the history of 911 in Texas?

If you took a road trip across the state tomorrow, you would expect 911 to be available should you encounter an emergency at any point. Whether you’re in Austin, El Paso, or deep inside the Hill Country, you know that those three digits will be there for you no matter what, but that wasn’t always the case. The history of 911 in Texas started in the 60s, but what did it take to get those three digits available to Texans everywhere? 

1967

In the late 60s, the Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice announced that they would create a single number for reporting emergencies. Before this, citizens who needed help from a police officer, fire fighter, or paramedic had to look up the 10-digit number of their local law enforcement office or fire station in the phone book. This, naturally, led to a delayed response, more lives lost, and more property damaged.

1968

The three digits “9-1-1” were selected as the national emergency number in 1968, and it was announced through a press release from AT&T. For some areas, making the transition from the 10-digit numbers to 911 wasn’t easy. Citizens were hesitant to put their trust in a new, unfamiliar system, especially those who lived in rural areas and were used to calling up their neighbors who also acted as a local firefighter or police officer.

With concentrated public education efforts that focused on building trust and identifying false assumptions, Texas citizens came to appreciate the value of a three digit number for all emergency services. This didn’t happen overnight and efforts to push out 911 state-wide continued into the 70s and 80s.

1987

Though 911 had been around for two decades, many primarily rural areas still didn’t have access to a three digit emergency number. To remedy this, in 1987 the Commission on State Emergency Communications (CSEC) identified a solution by having Regional Planning Commissions (RPCs) form 911 programs in regions that were not already covered by a 911 district. 

NCT9-1-1 began as one of these programs, originally called the North Central Texas Council of Governments 9-1-1 Program. In December of 2018, the NCTCOG 9-1-1 program became the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District (NCT9-1-1), which allowed the staff to provide services that were more personalized to the communities they served. 

911 in Texas is provided by a variety of different 911 authorities, including regional emergency communications districts (like NCT9-1-1), emergency communications districts (like the Tarrant County 9-1-1 District), municipal communications districts (like the city of Dallas), and regional planning associations (like the communities found in the Capital Area Council of Governments). 

map of 911 authorities in texas
This map, created by CSEC, displays the service areas of the different 911 authorities found in Texas.

 

2021

Today, 911 has come far. All Texas communities can expect to have access to 911 thanks to the efforts of legislators, public safety professionals, and other influential people who were passionate about providing superior emergency services. Now the 911 industry is looking into new opportunities such as Next Generation 911, which provides cloud-based systems, accessibility programs like Real Time Text and text-to-9-1-1, maps founded on GIS data, and so much more.   

How to become a 911 dispatcher

How to become a 911 dispatcher

The emergency number field is diverse and offers a lot of opportunities to those who find their calling in it, but how does someone become a 911 dispatcher or call taker? At the end of January, the NCT911 training program launched its first ever virtual/in-person hybrid Regional Telecommunicator Academy, which trains brand new 911 dispatchers and call takers on the foundation training they’ll need to be successful in their new careers. A 911 telecommunicator is the umbrella term for both 911 call takers, who typically answer 911 calls, and 911 dispatchers, who typically dispatch from the radio. 

If you’re researching the qualifications, skills, and education you’ll need to launch your career as a 911 dispatcher, look no further. We’ve created this guide to help you on your 911 journey.

What qualifications will I need?      

Before you start applying for 911 telecommunicator jobs, make sure you have or can obtain the necessary qualifications. For those searching in Texas, these are a little more strict than in other states. 

You’ll need:

  • A high school diploma or GED
  • To be at least 18 years old
  • Basic computer literacy skills, including the use of word processing software, email programs, database entry, etc.
  • In Texas, you must obtain the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Telecommunicator Certification within a year of your hiring date. The agency that hires you will assist you in preparing to take the state licensing exam, but you will be responsible for knowing the material. 
  • You may also be required to obtain certifications in emergency medical dispatch (only required for certain agencies that dispatch for medical emergencies), Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD), Texas Crime Information Center/National Law Enforcement Telecommunications system (TCIC/NCIC: these systems are where criminal justice data like prior arrests, license plates, sex offender registries, etc. are maintained), and specific certifications on the 911 equipment. 
  • Some agencies require pre-employment assessments like a polygraph test, drug screening, hearing test, psychological exam, and a background check. 

What skill sets will help me succeed?

So, you know you have or can obtain the necessary qualifications, but what type of skills do you need to be hired as a 911 dispatcher? Some of these are pretty obvious, but there are a few characteristics of a good telecommunicator that may surprise you.

  • Balance 

911 telecommunicators, whether they work as call takers, dispatchers, or both, have a lot of responsibilities. They manage multiple monitors that display all this information, like the whereabouts of officers, the addresses and telephone numbers of callers, traffic patterns, weather alerts, criminal justice data relevant to the call — and that’s before they even start answering phones or talking on the radio! If having multiple responsibilities intimidates you, then a job in the emergency communications field might not be the right one for you.

  • Customer Service

Yes, the citizens of the community you serve are like your customers in some ways (not so much in the customer is always right ways, however). It’s important that 911 call takers can maintain a level of professionalism even when dealing with distressed, rude, or even hostile callers. Most people who dial 911 are going through the worst day of their lives, so they may not be acting like themselves. 911 telecommunicators are often shouted at, cursed, or even ignored when a caller is panicking. It’s the job of a 911 call taker to get the necessary information, keep the caller safe, and relay that information to the first responders no matter the circumstances.  

  • Typing Accuracy 

If you want to be hired as a 911 dispatcher, it’s your job to collect vital information in the middle of an emergency. So that means your typing skills have to be better than good. Inaccuracies and typos could put callers or first responders at risk, so most 911 telecommunicators are excellent typists who not only type at the speed of light, but who also have minimal typing errors. Most 911 telecommunicators are required to type between 30 – 45 WPM without errors.

  • Self Awareness

You should know what you’re getting into before applying for a job as a 911 dispatcher. Emergencies don’t sleep and 911 telecommunicators work in shifts. You will be required to work midnights, weekends, and holidays. Many people start out in 911 believing they can handle this type of shiftwork, but then realize that it’s not the right path for them. Be honest with yourself before sending in your application.

  • Resiliency 

You’re signing up for a tough job. You’ll hear people going through trauma and difficulties every day and have to keep calm and talk them through it. You will be their light in the darkness, the voice on the other end of the line keeping them together until help arrives. Burnout in the emergency number industry is common, and though you can take training and use resources to assist with your mental health, it does take its toll. A resilient person will excel at this job, because they fight through the difficult calls and celebrate the miracles, and they know that at the end of the day, they made a difference.

Where can I find a job as a 911 dispatcher?

911 telecommunicator jobs are posted on online job boards just like any other role. You can search on Indeed or LinkedIn for roles in your area, or go straight to your local police department, sheriff’s office, or fire station for job postings. There are also opportunities to dispatch for private organizations like ambulance and medevac companies. You can also review the National Emergency Number Association Job Board.

If you think you have the qualifications and skills to be a 911 dispatcher, search in your area for an opening and start making a difference. You’ll know this is the right path for you because this industry isn’t just a job. It’s a calling.

I Called 911 on Accident! Should I Hang Up?

I Called 911 on Accident! Should I Hang Up?

Ask any 911 call taker the one thing they wish their citizens understood and you’ll get a few similar answers: they don’t always have your exact location, answering their questions doesn’t slow down the response, and never hang up on them. Even if you accidently dial 911!

The reason why you shouldn’t hang up is pretty simple: it takes longer to call you back and ensure you’re safe than it does to just stay on the line and explain the situation. Most 911 call takers will call back hang ups to ensure there is no emergency. Seconds matter in the emergency number field, and taking even a couple of extra moments to redial a hang up and confirm that you’re safe means that call taker isn’t available to answer a real emergency call.

Here are some of the main reasons callers hang up on 911, and what you should do if this happens to you!

Accidentally Dial 911 With Emergency Lock Screen Function

Most cell phones these days require a password to get into the device, including to make a call, but you can still dial 911 from the emergency call feature on the lockscreen.

The problem? Sometimes people accidentally pocket dial their local 911 call center using this feature. You can help prevent pocket dials to 911 by:

  • Purchasing a case which prevents double tapping buttons.
  • Decreasing screen sensitivity in the accessibility settings of your device.

Make sure your phone is properly locked before putting it in your pocket or purse and if you do happen to accidently 911, just stay on the line!

Children Who Accidentally Dial 911

Every 911 call taker has a story (multiple stories) of a child reaching 911 on accident while playing with a phone. And many times, parents just hang up as quickly as possible once they realize what’s going on. It’s always better to stay on the line and just explain what happened. 

Children accidentally dialing 911 on older phones without data plans is extremely common in the 911 call center because parents will give their kids old smartphones to play with during the day. This takes 911 call takers away from actual emergencies, so please don’t let your kids play with old cell phones! 

Accidentally Dial 911 With a Smartwatch 

Watches are getting smarter and smarter, to the point where they can even dial 911 on their own. The Apple watch is equipped with a fall detection feature, which uses an algorithm to sense if the wearer needs medical attention after a fall. If you don’t use one of Apple’s safety apps to trigger a fall, you can use a button on the side of the watch to call for help. However, many 911 call centers are reporting false alerts.

Help your local 911 call takers out by ensuring your smartwatch is set up correctly to prevent accidental 911 calls, which you can learn how to do on an Apple watch here. If your watch initiates a call to 911, you typically have six seconds to cancel it. If you can’t cancel in time, just stay on the line and explain what happened. 

Mistakes happen and 911 call takers know that you aren’t trying to take them away from their life-saving roles. But if you do accidentally dial 911, the best thing you can do is just stay on the line, explain the situation, and wait until the 911 call taker tells you it’s okay to hang up.