E911 Communications Center
Communications Director - David Sessoms
1625 Harry Byrd Highway
Darlington, SC 29532
Phone: (843) 398-4920
Fax: (843) 398-4918
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. When should I call 911?
A. Any emergency requiring an immediate Fire Department, Ambulance, or Law Enforcement Officer response is reason to call 911.
Q. When shouldn't I call 911?
A. Incidents not requiring an immediate response from a Fire Department, Ambulance, or Law Enforcement Officer are better handled by calling a non-emergency number.
Q. Why do I always have to answer a bunch of questions about where I am and what my phone number is when I ca1l 911? Doesn't your computer tell you that?
A. 911 telecommunicators cannot send you help if they don't know where you are and what's going on. Although the phone number and address provided by the 911 computer are nearly always correct, even computers make mistakes. That is why the telecommunicator must confirm that information by asking the caller. Also, many times callers are requesting help at a location other than the one they are calling from. Obviously, if help gets sent to the wrong location, there will be a delay in getting help to the person in need at the correct location. That delay might simply be inconvenient, but it also could mean the difference between life and death.
Q. If lily water pipes break, should I call 911? It's an emergency, isn't it?
A. Although broken pipes or water leaks are something you certainly want to get fixed as soon as possible, none of the agencies dispatched by 911 provide that service. You need to call a plumber, and we cannot tell you what plumber to call.
Q. Why shouldn't I call 911 when my power goes out? I don't like just leaving a message on the power company's answering machine. I want to talk to a real person.
When you call a power company's outage reporting line and leave a message about your power being off, automated location equipment similar to that used in 911 records your account information based upon your address and phone number. So even when all you can do is leave a message, you are also leaving valuable location information to help the power company find where the problem is. The power company uses that information, regardless of whether or not you actually spoke to anyone, to plot your location in its power grid. The problem is often somewhere other than your house, and this information helps them go directly to the source of the problem. So ifyo_ call 911, and a 911 telecommunicator calls in your service request for you, the power company gets the location of the 911 center, not your house. Then that information has to be verbally collected and manually recorded into the power company database. The final result is a slower response than you would have gotten if you had used the automated system in the first place.
About Central Communictions / E911
The E911 Communications Center became operational in August of 1992. At that time all Fire, EMS and Law Enforcement calls were answered and dispatched from one location. Prior to that time calls were answered at each agency.
In November 1992 the Center began receiving "enhanced" 9-1-1. "Enhanced" meant that when the call came in it was processed by a computer to provide the telephone number of the caller's phone, the address where the phone was located, and the accountholder's name. After verifying that the displayed information was correct, the E911 telecommunicator could then transfer that information into a Computer Aided Dispatch system or CAD. CAD provides a computerized way of entering and keeping track of the progress of a call, replacing handwritten paper records.
While those improvements significantly streamlined call reception and record keeping, mobile or "wireless" phone calls were still un-enhanced. Although they came in on a dedicated 911 phone line, no location or phone number information was provided for the telecommunicator answering the call. Unfortunately, callers using wireless 911 are frequently not able to tell the telecommunicator where they are, simply because they are unfamiliar with the area they are in when they place the call. This is particularly true of travelers just passing through the county. Since more and more 911 calls are being placed from mobile phones, such as when people witness a traffic accident or suffer a breakdown on the highway, callers not knowing where they are is a huge problem. Without location information, 911 telecommunicators have no way of knowing where to send help.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has addressed that problem by mandating that mobile phone companies start providing phone number and location information in two phases. Wireless E911 Phase I provides the caller's mobile phone number to the E911 telecommunicator answering the call, but still does not provide any location information. Darlington County E911 Communications now receives that type of Wireless E911 Phase I Information. Wireless E911 Phase II will provide the caller's phone number, but adds a caller's location based upon latitude and longitude, as well. That lat/lon point is then plotted on a computerized map of the county so the E911 telecommunicator can see what road or address or other landmark the caller is near, and what Fire, EMS, or Law Enforcement units to send. Darlington County E911 Communications does not presently receive Wireless E911 Phase II service, but we have requested it from the wireless phone companies serving the county.
The changes in wireless 911 service represent just one example of how 911 technology continually evolves. As computer capabilities improve, 911 software programmers are able to develop applications that further improve 911 telecommunicator's ability to provide quicker, more accurate responses to people's calls for help. To stay on top of the technology curve, equipment and software constantly require upgrades and/or replacement. Our goal is to provide the best service we possibly can to the people who call us for help, and taking advantage of technological advances as often as we can is one way we can more closely to that goal.