Last night’s class was held at DuComm – our consolidated 911 center for our county. I live only 10 minutes away from it and didn’t even know it was there, right behind the Target store!
DuComm stands for DuPage Public Safety Communications. It’s the largest consolidated 911 center in the entire state of Illinois. It serves 17 police departments and 22 fire departments which spans over 800,000 citizens in total.
There are a total of 9 police dispatchers, 4 fire dispatchers and 1 alarm board operator per shift. Each station has six computer monitors: the live incoming 911 call, a mapping system showing where the call is originating from and where all of the available police units are, what police units are currently on call/available, police and fire radio traffic and the LEADS system which runs driver’s license number and license plate numbers. Having seen the inside of the call center it’s an impressive set up!
All landline 911 calls go directly to DuComm. All 911 calls from cell phones first go to our county Sheriff’s department and they route the calls to either DuComm or another police or fire station. 70% of all 911 calls are from cell phones.
If you call 911 from a cell phone, this is what is transmitted to the call center – the address of the closest cell tower to you, your cell phone number, your cell phone carrier and a general latitude and longitude. It’s not an exact science for pinpointing your location which is why the dispatchers may ask you many questions to figure out exactly where you are.
DuComm takes approximately 1500 calls in just 8 hours. 1000 of which are 911 calls. Yeah, it’s a busy place when you’re taking care of 39 different police and fire districts.
For fire alarm calls that come into DuComm, the dispatchers have the capability to not only sound the appropriate alarm tone at the station, but if it’s at night they can also turn on the lights at the station so the firemen aren’t stumbling around in the dark, they can open the bay doors remotely and even turn off the gas on the stove. I thought all of that was way cool!
Training wise, a fire dispatcher is much harder than a police dispatcher. It’s 13 weeks for fire and 9 weeks for police.
This job is so stressful that it weighs on you, messes with your head, gives you nightmares and will send you to counseling. If you make it past two years (which is the average drop out rate) then this will become your career because you have what it takes.
After the presentation we got to go out into the call center itself. It’s a beehive of constant activity and voices. All the dispatchers work as a team. One will take a call and start getting information and entering it into the computer, while another dispatcher is reading it and sending out calls to either the police or fire departments. They’re like a well-oiled machine. And they need to be. We got to listen in on three 911 calls while we were standing there, all within ten minutes.
All in all a fascinating night! Next week is Crime Scene Processing. YES!! Can’t wait for that one!
And last but not least, I’m finally an official Volunteer! Got my credentials last night. Woot! Bring on my first assignment!