Baltimore County Now
Jason Bivens, Assistant Chief
Baltimore County 9-1-1 Center
Ever call 9-1-1 in an emergency and wonder why the call taker asks so many questions? You can rest assured that answering questions does NOT delay your help. The dispatcher is generally already sending help while your call taker gets additional information from you. Baltimore County 9-1-1 call takers are trained to ask questions that will help you get the assistance you need as quickly as possible.
Here’s some background on how the 9-1-1 Center works and some important tips to help us help you as quickly as possible.
It is important to stay on the line until you receive instructions to hang up.
When you call for assistance, remember to dial the most appropriate number based on what you are reporting:
EMERGENCY: Dial 9-1-1
Non-Emergency: Dial 410-887-2222
When you call, we will verify your address or location, get your contact number, and ask some initial questions to determine the nature of the incident and what equipment and emergency response is needed to best help the situation.
AFTER sending your information to the appropriate dispatcher we will ask several additional questions to get more specific details for responding units and we will provide important instructions to you prior to their arrival. Our highly trained call takers provide potentially life-saving instructions like how to perform CPR, control bleeding, deliver a baby or do whatever the situation demands until help arrives. If you are in danger, you may be instructed to leave the building, secure yourself in a room, or take other protective actions.
While you might not understand why we ask certain questions, or it may seem trivial to you, know that they are for your safety and that of the responders coming to assist you. Please try to keep your answers focused on the question and as brief as you can; we will ask more questions if needed.
Don’t guess or assume answers – if you really don’t know, then tell us that.
Don’t withhold information – if you know who a suspect is but you don’t want to say, you could be seriously jeopardizing the safety of an officer.
Call volume in the 9-1-1 Communications Center fluctuates through the day. At any time, we can receive numerous high-priority calls, or perhaps several calls regarding a single incident. This may mean you receive a recorded message. Please, DO NOT hang up! Your call will be answered by the next available call taker.
If you mistakenly dial 9-1-1, please do not hang up before the 9-1-1 call taker answers the phone. The information from your phone still enters our system, and if you aren’t on the phone when the call taker answers, our policy is to send an officer to your location to ensure that you are safe. If you change your mind about needing assistance, stay on the line and explain that to the 9-1-1 call taker. The time spent calling people back who have inadvertently dialed 9-1-1 takes time away from people who need emergency help.
Here are some basic tips for calling 9-1-1. Reading these now may help you if an actual emergency occurs:
1. Stay calm. Speak clearly. Emergency units (police, fire or ambulance) rely on the information you give to get to you as soon as possible and to be able to help you.
2. Give your address or location and phone number. Your address or location is vital information, and we cannot send help if we don’t know where you are.
3. Quickly and briefly describe your problem. As soon as we know what you need, we will know who to send to help you (police car, ambulance or fire truck). Get to the point as soon as possible.
4. Describe yourself and/or the suspect. Tell the 9-1-1 call taker where you are and what you look like, including what you are wearing. We want officers who are arriving on the scene to know who they can contact and that you are not a potential suspect. In appropriate situations you will be asked to describe the suspect including race and age. These questions are not a determinant of whether or not a police officer will be sent but rather to provide the police officer information on what the suspect looks like.
5. Listen to the 9-1-1 call taker. Answer their questions and follow any instructions. Remain on the line until the 9-1-1 call taker says it is okay for you to hang up.
6. Remember: Answering questions does NOT delay your help. At times the dispatcher is sending units while your calltaker gets additional information from you.
YOUR safety is our number one concern.
Director of Public Safety Media & Communications
An email from one of the Baltimore County Police Department’s Community Resource officers, warning about the dangers of “Drano bombs,” has gone viral.
Over the past two weeks, we’ve fielded calls from news agencies, government offices and community leaders asking if the threat is “for real” and trying to gauge the extent of the problem. One of my neighbors called, asking if it’s safe to pick up a Pepsi bottle someone tossed in the front yard.
The answer is: yes, it’s probably safe. If the bottle looks like a normal bottle, go ahead and toss it in the trash.
But if it looks swollen or misshapen – as if it might burst – leave it alone and call 911.
Drano bombs, also called “bottle bombs,” are nothing new. Made from a few basic household items, they explode when gas generated by a chemical reaction inside the capped bottle builds to a breaking point. Our Arson & Bomb Unit says they’ve been around for years; typically, they’re constructed by juveniles fooling around with stuff they ought to leave alone.
Baltimore County is not experiencing a Drano bomb epidemic.
There were 13 Drano bomb cases in all of 2011. So far this year, police have documented six incidents involving the devices – two in the White Marsh precinct; one in the Franklin precinct; and, last week, three in the North Point precinct. Officers in the bomb squad say they typically see an uptick in these incidents at this time of year, just after school lets out.
The Franklin incident involved the arrest of a 13-year-old boy. One of the North Point incidents occurred in the Dundalk High gymnasium and involved arrest of an 18-year-old student. In a different North Point incident, one person suffered minor injuries.
The lack of serious injuries is good news, because Drano bombs can cause severe injury, especially if they’re placed in a mailbox or other container that can turn to shrapnel if the device goes off.
The catch-22 in all this is that efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of Drano bombs may entice some kids (or adults) into experimenting with them. Such would-be pranksters should know that the law puts Drano bombs in the same category as the pipe bombs terrorists use. Building, setting off or possessing a Drano bomb is a felony; conviction can land you in jail for up to 25 years and/or cost you up to $250,000 in fines.