(Washington, DC) – On Halloween, 911 Operators at the District’s Office of Unified Communications hosted a haunted call center, where children from Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School learned the importance of knowing their address in case they have to call 911. Children made their way through different areas of the eerily transformed Unified Call Center to get treats. And they learned directly from call takers and dispatchers how important it is to know your address.
“It’s really just a fun time for the kids with a serious message attached,” said OUC Director Karima Holmes. “We do get many calls from children trying to explain where an emergency is near them, but they can’t always tell us where they are. And if they’re calling from a cell phone, we won’t always be able to determine their exact location. That’s why we want them to always be able to tell us their address.”
Director Holmes reiterated the challenging nature of cell phone use with 911. While the Office of Unified Communications is prepared to receive location data, many carriers have not made the required upgrades that would convey that information to the 911 operator. And those who might be using their cell phone along a border area, might get Montgomery or Prince George’s County instead of OUC. That’s because the cell tower that receives the signal sends the call to the emergency call center the tower is in, not necessarily the jurisdiction with the emergency. So, it’s important a person calling 911 has a clear determination of where exactly the emergency is. Know your location!
Over the past year, OUC has made tremendous strides in modernizing its facilities, upgrading equipment, and implementing a robust training schedule. Texting platforms have been installed for both 911 (emergency services) and 311 (city services), further expanding the ways in which callers can reach OUC. In the future, technology will play a key role as the agency continues to upgrade and improve.