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Community Resilience: Providing the Framework to Prevent Non-Emergency 911 Calls

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

Among the most important creations of a civilized society are the mechanisms for the public to receive assistance in an emergency. National 911 telephone services were set up for just that purpose because most towns and cities have law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services to assist in such emergencies.

Many first responders realize that 911 is often used as a catch-all service instead of as a life-saving tool. Striking the balance of when to use or not use 911 involves community resilience, as towns and cities develop plans that create more flexibility in how available resources are used in the wake of disaster events.

Keeping this concept in mind, community resilience needs to maintain a proper balance between true 911 emergencies and a system that keeps non-emergencies out of 911 call centers. To help maintain this balance, residents can support community resilience through preventative measures such as smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and medical training.

Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Arguably, the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are two important inventions that have saved millions of lives. When there are home fire or asphyxiation fatalities, it’s often because residents did not have a working smoke or carbon monoxide detector. The National Fire Protection Association posted statistics providing information on smoke detectors and fire fatalities.

When these home alarms sound, they alert both residents and neighbors who can dial 911 and get the appropriate resources to the scene to prevent the emergency from growing out of control.

Across the country, there are numerous regulations that require residential buildings to have properly operating smoke detectors. But sometimes a community needs more than smoke detector legislation to prevent fires. Organizations like the American Red Cross work to assist local communities install smoke detectors in private homes.

Medical Training

There have been a number of horrific active shooter incidents in the past few years. Police, fire and emergency medical services work hard to respond to these incidents quickly because rapid medical care is essential for the injured.

Understanding this need, the Stop the Bleed Campaign is teaching the public how to handle heavy bleeding while waiting for paramedics to arrive on scene – a procedure that saves lives. The campaign simply adds a dimension of community resilience for citizens to prevent the loss of life while they await emergency responders.

Individuals who call 911 for non-emergency situations make it difficult for police, fire and EMT personnel to manage actual emergencies effectively. The creation of policies to prevent individuals from dialing 911 for non-emergencies has helped. But towns and cities need more community resilience efforts to keep non-emergencies out of 911 response centers.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.