Calls for all law enforcement agencies within the county, city and county fire departments and emergency medical services are directed to this location.
It operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Four communications officers work 12-hour shifts – 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Center also handles forestry, EMA, animal control and other non-emergency calls.
“Any call that comes here gets our immediate attention,” said Beth Byars, director.
The first task, she said, is to get needed information into the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. Once this is done, calls are dispatched to the appropriate department or agency, which responds. Need determines how many are sent to a scene.
When a call comes into 911, these facts are needed immediately:
l Type of emergency
l Phone number
“Most people think we automatically know their location,” Byars said. “We don’t!”
This is especially true with older cell phones or a land line, which could have a wrong address. Cell phones gives the nearest tower that is pinged.
“We always confirm the location of a call we receive,” Byars said. “People sometimes get impatient when we ask, but it is our job to make sure that help is sent to the right place as quickly as possible.”
About one-third of the calls to the 911 Center are non-emergency. These tie up lines so that staff can’t give attention to the ones that are real.
Kids with cell phones often call as part of what they consider a funny prank, according to Byars. She emphasized that there is nothing comical about an automobile crash, heart attack or fire destroying a home.
She said that time is consumed if staff has to determine the location the call is made. It could be a school bus, walking down the street or elsewhere.
“We are committed to answering every call since it could be an emergency and they need help,” she said.
Byars encouraged parents to take time to talk with their children about when to call 911 and why it is important they do not make non-emergency calls.
However, it not just youngsters that make non-emergency calls. Many are received from adults with questions they can easily find from other sources such as how to reach the sheriff, county and city offices or even a business.
“It is very important to only call 911 in case of a true emergency,” Byars said. “Once you are on the phone you need to stay calm and speak clearly so the communication officer can hear and understand you.”
Each communications officer must meet the following qualifications:
High school diploma or GED, 18 years of age, valid driver’s license, criminal history and driver’s history, background investigation, and pre-employment drug screening and physician’s exam for POST.
Certification required for each one includes: Basic Communication Officer Certification through POST, CPR, Emergency Medical Dispatch, Georgia Criminal Information Center, National Incident Management System and continuing education as required or needed.
“If there is an emergency, the 911 Center is the place where help begins,” Byars said.