Week three of the Brunswick Sheriff’s Citizens Academy started off with a visit to the Brunswick County 911 Center. This is the facility where both emergency calls to 911 and non-emergency calls to the 911 Center’s administrative lines are received, processed, and dispatched.
First, Stacy Stevens with the Brunswick County 911 Center gave us an overview of the history and structure of 911 emergency systems in the United States, North Carolina and Brunswick County.
According to my notes, Brunswick County’s 911 Center was established in 1992. The dispatchers work 12-hour shifts. The center currently has six 911 trunks (a figure which will increase as the county’s population grows) and 10 administrative lines. In addition to calls, the dispatchers also monitor radios. The 911 center dispatches calls to the Sheriff’s Office, 12 municipal police departments, 20 fire departments, four EMS departments, one combined fire/EMS department and a number of other entities, which are in effect the 911 Center’s customers.
After Stacy’s presentation, we toured the 911 Center and observed dispatchers handling calls. They have what looks to be an incredibly challenging job (and is also an incredibly important one). As I stated earlier, they work 12-hour shifts. For July 2013, the 911 Center received 8,805 911 emergency calls, 12,610 administrative calls, and dispatched 10,632 calls for service. 911 Center Telecommunicators (which I interpret to be a more technically correct term for the jobs commonly referred to as “dispatchers”) must complete six to twelve months of on-the-job training before they are ready to work in the 911 Center.
Stacy also touched on when you should call 911. In essence, you should call 911 to save a life, report a fire, or stop a crime. She also stressed the importance of NOT hanging up when you accidentally call 911. Stay on the line and tell them it was an accident. If you hang up, they will call you back and will likely dispatch someone to check on you. Additionally, when you call 911, the telecommunicator should ask “WHERE is your emergency?”. Be prepared to provide this information at the opening of the call.
The 911 Center is an importance piece of Brunswick County’s public safety puzzle, and the dedicated people who work in the center perform a difficult, important job. If you talk to someone who works in the center, thank them for their service.
After the tour of the 911 Center we returned to the Sheriff’s Office, where we learned about the Criminal Investigative Unit (aka the Detective Division), Major Crimes and crime scene investigations. We observed several different ways of lifting fingerprints from crime scenes, and even had the chance to lift prints ourselves. A print I lifted is pictured at right.
A detective also walked us through the steps involved in processing a sexual assault evidence collection kit, as well as a suspect evidence collection kit. I physically cringed as she described some parts of it. If I recall correctly, each of these is a 17-step process that must be undertaken to ensure that evidence in an alleged sexual assault case is properly collected. Once this is done, DNA samples are sent off to the State Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Raleigh, where they can take in excess of a year to process (likely due to a backlog of cases from all across the state). The detective also walked us through a gunshot residue collection kit.
As an aside, the tools and procedures involved in gathering and analyzing evidence are quite different than what you might see on television shows such as CSI or NCIS.
Next week, we are schedule to learn more about Animal Protective Services and the Crime Prevention Unit.