Emergency? Dial 911
By Kimberly Woodruff, Staff Writer
/ Published February 29, 2016
TINKER AIRT FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Ask almost any school-aged child who to call when there is an emergency and they will tell you to dial 911.
Most everyone knows that right?
Well, not everyone. Tinker 911 operators say that there are still emergency calls being made to the fire department or security forces' seven-digit telephone numbers.
"In some cases emergency callers have called the fire chief's office directly," said Terry Ford, Tinker Fire and Emergency Services chief. "That's not the best course of action."
Lori Shannon, 911 dispatch supervisor with Tinker Fire and Emergency Services, said she thinks most people on base don't realize that Tinker is just like its own city.
"We have our own fire department and police department, but also certified 911 operators," said Ms. Shannon, who was recently promoted to major within the fire department.
Ms. Shannon said a person would still get help by calling security forces or the fire department directly, but the response could be delayed. In an extreme emergency such as a fire or a person suffering a heart attack, every second counts. People should dial 911 first.
"We have a good core group of dispatchers," said Ms. Shannon, adding that most of them have been doing this type of work for 20 years or more.
Anyone who has ever needed to call 911 knows the operators can be very cool and collected.
"We get some interesting calls -- everything from children choking, hurt or not breathing, to routine fire alarms" said Ms. Shannon. "We go through training to help calm them down. We're their first contact for emergency services and their life line until someone gets there to help."
Ms. Shannon said she has been on the phone with people performing CPR, and it can feel like a lifetime.
"Although it really isn't," she said. "We try to keep them involved and helping -- it makes the time seem shorter. We find that CPR saves lives if you start as soon as you can."
In addition to 911 dispatchers being certified in CPR, they are certified in emergency medical dispatching, fire dispatching, and hazardous material dispatch. 911 operators have the ability to transfer calls to the Base Defense Operations Center for Police emergencies.
"911 is your one-stop shopping for all things emergency related," she said.
Ms. Shannon highlights some of the issues related to cell phone 911calls.
"Depending on a variety of factors, when you call 911 from a cellphone on base you may be routed to one of the other 13 911 centers in the region," she said. "It's very important when calling 911 from a cellphone to tell the dispatcher you are calling from Tinker AFB. If you've reached one of the other 911 centers, they have the ability to route the call back to Tinker directly."
Finally, many callers have expressed concerns over delays in the Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol delays when calling 911.
"You may experience a slight delay in a ring signal when calling 911 from a VOIP phone," Ms. Shannon says. "Don't hang up, stay on the line, it will connect, 24/7, 365 days a year. We are always here!"