The mission of the Summerville Emergency Communications Center is to act as the critical link between our public safety agencies and the citizens they protect and serve by assisting responders in the preservation of life and property through relaying accurate information in a timely and efficient manner; and providing professional, courteous, and compassionate service to all customers.
The Summerville Emergency Communications Center has responsibilities to the Summerville Police Department, the Summerville Fire Department, and citizens that live in or visit the town. We are the primary Public Service Answering Point (PSAP) for the Town of Summerville, answering all 9-1-1 calls for the residential, commercial and mobile phone users, this includes all calls for law enforcement, fire department, first responders and EMS (Dispatched by Dorchester, Berkeley or Charleston Counties). In addition to handling emergency calls, our 16 full time telecommunicators assist callers on non-emergency phone lines, dispatch Police and Fire first responders and handle other administrative and clerical tasks.
9-1-1 is for emergencies only. You should only be dialing 9-1-1 if someone is hurt or in danger, or if you are in immediate need of police, fire, or medical assistance. If you aren’t sure if your situation is an emergency, you should err on the side of safety and call 9-1-1 and let the expert who answers your call make the decision on how to process the call.
If you are calling to report an incident it is important to stay on the line until the telecommunicator has gathered all information or in some instances when responders arrive and say it is safe to come out, in any case stay on the line until the telecommunicator says it is okay to disconnect.
This is the most important information you can provide as a 9-1-1 caller, so try to be aware of your surroundings. Regardless of how much information we have about the incident, if we don’t know where you are, we don’t know where to send the responders you need. Make a real effort to be as detailed as possible. If you are outside and don’t know the street address take a look around and try to find landmarks or cross streets. If you are inside a large building or one with multiple levels, you can help emergency services by letting them know which floor you are on, which apartment you are in, etc.
The majority of people rarely, if ever, need to call 9-1-1, but when they do, it is usually a situation involving high levels of emotions. The caller may be frightened, angry, injured, sad, or a combination of several; but regardless, the caller needs help as fast as possible.
When you are on the phone with 9-1-1, you are their eyes and ears. Even though you may want to, try not to panic. If you are in an emotional state (i.e. crying, yelling, etc), it can be hard for the 9-1-1 operator to understand you. If you are able to stay strong and answer all of the 9-1-1 operator’s questions, the faster they can get the right services to your location.
To provide the appropriate help in a timely manner, the telecommunicator will need to gain an understanding of the emergency. The telecommunicator is trained to ask specific questions based on the type of incident and other information already received. These questions are used to assist the responders in understanding what they are responding to, help determine the appropriate response, and ensure safety for all parties involved and bystanders.
The basics of the questioning technique is called the 5 W’s (Where, What, Who, When, and Weapons). Once the location is verified you will be asked about What is going on (we need as much detail as possible about why you are calling 9-1-1 today), Who is involved (including descriptions of people and vehicles, if appropriate), When the incident occurred, and if any Weapons are involved.
This process does not slow down a response in emergency situations; the call is dispatched once the location and type of incident is determined and responders are updated as additional information is received.
One of the most significant problems that emergency responders face is that the majority of homes do not have their current address displayed, or properly displayed, so that emergency responders can readily see them. With our E-9-1-1 system, emergency responders may know what your address is, but locating a residence where the address is not prominently displayed can be difficult, take valuable time, and may have serious and tragic results in situations where seconds count. Giving the E-9-1-1 telecommunicators detailed directions is very helpful, but keep in mind that in some cases there are response units from different agencies and that they may be dispatched through different communications centers. In cases where a residence is not properly marked, having to repeat the directions multiple times to assist emergency response units in locating an address can delay the arrival of emergency response units. Having your address displayed on both sides of your mailbox, at the end of your driveway, or on the house itself, in large easy to read numbers makes it easier for emergency response units to locate your residence. In the event that your mailbox is not near your residence, or in a location where multiple mailboxes are located, displaying your address in a location that identifies your residence (at the end of your driveway, or on the house itself) is extremely helpful in getting help to you or a loved one in an emergency.
Don’t call 9-1-1 just because you burned dinner and your guests are arriving any minute, or because you are late for a meeting and need help finding an address. While those situations may count as emergencies for you, they aren’t for public safety. Inappropriate use of the 9-1-1 system wastes resources and ties up the lines at the 9-1-1 center, and nobody wants to be on hold when they are experiencing a life and death crisis. Not to mention that in most states misuse, harassing or making prank calls to 9-1-1 is a crime, and you don’t want law enforcement showing up at your door.
If you have a situation that you need to report, but the incident is a past event and non-threatening (not in progress, suspects are unknown or not seen), i.e., theft of personal property, past criminal mischief/vandalism, a theft from an auto that occurred during the night, then you may want to contact the law enforcement agency to report the incident by calling in on the Summerville Police Administrative Line at (843) 875-1650. Again, anytime you are unsure of when to dial 9-1-1, it is always better to dial 9-1-1, err on the side of caution. The call-taker is trained to recognize potential emergencies and if deemed otherwise they may instruct you to call a non-emergency line to keep the 9-1-1 lines open.
Misdials are sometimes experienced on 9-1-1. Often many misdials are realized after the number is dialed and the caller will immediately disconnect the line. This is what is commonly referred to as a “9-1-1 hang-up”. If a connection was made, regardless if a telecommunicator answered the line, the PSAP will still receive the call. It is very important to remain on the line, even if you realize you misdialed. If you disconnect the line, the E-9-1-1 operator must process the call as an unknown emergency, until otherwise determined.
Summerville Police Department, Copyright 2021
Summerville Police Department, Copyright 2020