Bonneville County 911


Dispatchers and Calltakers

A dispatcher/calltaker is the link between the public and the public safety responders such as police officers, deputies, paramedics, and firemen.

To complete this link, a dispatcher/calltaker must be able to pass on a certain amount of information in order to coordinate responders. Due to a heavy load of requests for assistance (over 100,000 per year in Bonneville County) and the nature of emergency calls, these calls must be handled in a timely and efficient manner.

All callers are equally important, regardless of whether the request is for a responder or for information. To help determine what type of request they are dealing with, a calltaker will ask specific questions which will vary depending on what type of request is being received. For example, when a vehicle accident is being reported, information needed includes an exact location and descriptions of the vehicles involved. This information is invaluable to emergency responders to help them locate the victims quickly. It would seem frustrating for a victim to be able to see the responders on the opposite side of a large parking lot and realize that they cannot find them. When reporting a suspicious person or vehicle, a good description is a vital tool in assisting emergency responders in locating the person or vehicle quickly.

A calltaker is often responsible for performing multiple duties at the same time. When a call comes in, the caller's information is typed into a CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) system. With this sytem, the dispatcher receives requests for emergency response while the calltaker is still talking with the caller. This allows help to be sent as soon as the location and type of emergency are identified by the calltaker while allowing the calltaker to remain on the phone, obtaining more detailed information or giving directions to the caller on what they should do until help arrives. Your calltaker may also be responsible for handling other phone calls, radio traffic, relaying information by voice, computer, or radio, or any combination of these.

On requests for information, a calltaker will do his/her best to direct callers to the appropriate person or agency. Emergency calls always have priority over information requests and the caller may be asked to hold while an emergency call is handled. Occasionally, there is nothing that the calltaker can do for a caller, in these cases an alternate route, if known, will be suggested to the caller.

A fully trained dispatcher/calltaker is certified through the State of Idaho after completing pre-determined areas of training. The dispatcher/calltaker must be certified to be able to use the State & National Teletype Computer System. They must also be a certified EMD (Emergency Medical Dispatcher). An EMD is trained to give telephone instructions to callers to aid the victim and control the situation until emergency responders arrive. On the State level, there are 4 levels of certification, the qualifications for these depend on the amount and type of training a dispatcher has had and years of experience. Dispatchers must re-certify on EMD and teletype every two years, this is usually done while they are performing their regular duties.

At full staff, there are 18 dispatcher/calltakers and 4 supervisors. The number of staff on duty varies with the time of day. The average number of people on duty is 4-5 when the center is at full staff.

To reach a calltaker at the Idaho Falls E911 Telecommunications Center:

The Bonneville County E911 Telecommunications center is designed to assist the public it serves in an efficient and professional manner. Due to the support received from the citizens of Bonneville County and the City of Idaho Falls, we are able to maintain the emergency response level they expect and deserve.

E911 F.A.Q.

When should I call 911?

Dial 911 only in emergencies where people might be seriously hurt - like fires, crimes, injuries, or sickness. If you don't know whether to call 911 or not, calling is the right thing to do!

How do I call for help if I have a hearing or speech disability?

The calltaker workstations include TDD equipment, the Bonneville County TDD number for emergency and non-emergency use is 529-1110. You may also call 911.

What number should I call for non-emergencies?

Dial 529-1200 for all non-emergency calls. Although all calls (911 and 529-1200) are routed to the same telecommunications center, 911 calls are handled on a higher priority. Dialing 529-1200 for non-emergencies keeps the 911 lines free to handle emergencies. Because we are a consolidated dispatch center, 529-1200 can be used to reach the Idaho Falls Police Department, Bonneville County Sheriff's Department, and the Idaho Falls Fire/EMS Department.

What happens when the electricity goes out?

The Bonneville County Telecommunications Center has several back-up sources of power. If the electricity goes out, all equipment is immediately switched to a battery-powered UPS. The UPS is capable of handling the load for several hours but will typically carry the load just long enough for it to be transferred to a generator. The generator is powered primarily by natural gas, but will run off of propane if natural gas is unavailable for some reason. The switch to alternate power sources is seamless as far as the computers and communications equipment is concerned, and often the calltakers and dispatchers are the last to know that the power is out!

What is Enhanced 911 (also referred to as E911)?

Enhanced 911 automatically reports both the number and location of the caller. This information is referred to as ANI/ALI (Automatic Number Identification/Automatic Location Identification). ANI/ALI information is received in the telecommunications center within 1.5 seconds from the time the call to 911 was initiated. Prior to E911, Bonneville County had Basic 911. With Basic 911, it would take 7-13 minutes to trace a call if the caller was unable to provide his/her location.

How do I benefit from E911?

The benefits are obvious when you consider the number of callers that are unable to provide a location. These callers include young children; people who are suffering a stroke, heart attack, or other medical emergency; people who are involved in a physical disturbance where the phone may be jerked from the wall; etc. When you compare the 1.5 seconds it takes to locate the caller with E911 to the 7-13 minutes it used to take, you can easily see how E911 saves lives.

If the dispatchers know where the 911 calls are coming from, why do they still ask for a location?

One of the first questions you are asked when you call 911 is "Where is your emergency?" This is an important question for several reasons: 1) Not all calls come from the location of the emergency. For instance, a neighbor may call to report a prowler or fire down the road. 2)Very infrequently, the ANI/ALI information received is in error. When this happens, the dispatcher will report the information in error and it is corrected in the ANI/ALI database.

What if I call 911 from a cellular phone versus a land line?

Currently, ANI/ALI is not available from wireless 911 calls. The National Emergency Number Association (NENA), of which both the Bonneville County Emergency Communications Systems Manager and the Bonneville County Sheriff's Department Administrative Lieutenant are members, is working with the FCC to make wireless 911 more compatible with the present land line systems. Effective October 1, 1996, the FCC mandated that:

Obviously the cellular providers and the PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) are going to incur costs, most of which will be passed on to the cellular users. However, the cellular telephone industry is currently experiencing growth rates of approximately 50% per year which should help keep their per-user cost down. We currently receive 911 calls from travelers who do not know which road they're on let alone which direction they're headed or which milepost marker they just passed. In addition, much of Bonneville County is remote back-county enjoyed by bikers, backpackers, skiers, hunters, fishermen, etc. As the use of cell phones increase, so will the number of 911 calls intiated from cell phones. Because the primary reason most cellular users have a cellular phone is for their personal safety, we feel that most would agree that a reasonable per-user fee (similar to the $1 per month land-line customers currently pay) would be well worth the cost if it helped emergency personnel save even one life. We recommend that you contact your cellular provider for information on how and when they expect to comply with the FCC mandate. As state legislation is required before a cost-recovery plan can be implemented, we also recommend that you contact the Bonneville County Commissioners to let them know how you feel.

Dispatcher What should I do if I accidentally dial 911?

The best thing to do if you accidentally dial 911 is admit to the calltaker that you made a mistake. If you hang-up, they will call you back! And if you don't answer or the line is busy, an officer will be dispatched to your location! Remember, the Enhanced 911 equipment is more sophisticated than your Caller ID, even if you hang-up quickly after just one ring, we will still receive the ANI/ALI information.

What happens when I call 911?

911 calls are initially routed to the central phone office on Constitution Way in Idaho Falls, from there they are routed to the tandem phone office in Pocatello and then to the Positron computer equipment in the basement of the 911 center in Idaho Falls where the phone number (ANI) is captured. Once the ANI is captured, an inquiry is made through Pocatello to Portland Oregon where the location information (ALI) is retrieved and forwarded back to the 911 center where the ANI/ALI information is displayed on the calltaker's console. All of this happens within approximately 1.5 seconds! The ANI/ALI information can then be retrieved into the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system and the location is automatically displayed graphically on the calltaker's console. After the nature and location of the emergency has been determined, CAD will automatically determine the proper responding agencies and units and notifies the dispatcher(s) (we have two, one for law events and one for fire and ems events) who then dispatches the proper units by radio. The calltakers and dispatchers work in parallel, this means that a calltaker can remain on the line with the caller while the dispatcher makes sure that help is on the way.

Are the calltakers qualified to instruct callers on how to administer CPR/first aid to a patient?

All of our calltakers are EMD (Emergency Medical Dispatch) certified. As such, they can accurately query the caller, select an appropriate method of response, provide pertinent information to responders, and give appropriate aid and direction for patients through the caller. Through careful application and reference to a written, medically approved, emergency medical dispatch protocol, sound decisions concerning EMS (Emergency Medical Service) responses are made in a safe, reproducible, and non-arbitrary manner. The calltaker is very often the first responder to medical emergencies.