Do’s and Don’ts When Faced with Fire Emergencies
Emergencies – Calling the Fire Department
Georgetown has an enhanced 9-1-1 system. This means that the 9-1-1 operator (referred to as the “dispatcher”) can identify through the system’s computer, the phone number and address of the calling party. This assists in timely dispatching of police or fire units to the emergency scene.
Common fire emergencies include structure fires, brush fires, and car fires. Common medical emergencies include heart attack, car accidents, respiratory difficulty, seizures and ill persons.
- When a call is received by the 9-1-1 dispatcher, they will say, “What is your emergency, police, fire or medical?” The caller should tell the dispatcher which type of emergency they are reporting or give a description of the problem, allowing the dispatcher to decide how to route the call.
Whenever a person calls 9-1-1, their message needs to be clear. The dispatcher will ask you a series of questions and verify the address. They also need to stay on the phone until the person in the 9-1-1 center has released them from the conversation.
The dispatcher will begin to dispatch emergency units immediately. If it is a medical emergency, the dispatcher then will transfer the caller to the medic dispatcher sitting nearby. The medic dispatcher is specially trained for medical emergencies to provide self-help instructions to the caller while units are en route.
In Georgetown, the closest fire engine or ladder truck will respond to the call. The EMS system is handled by Williamson County EMS, which Stations 3 and 4 house.
All Georgetown firefighters receive medical training and, at a minimum, are EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) and we have several paramedics.
Try to stay calm. State what kind of emergency it is — fire, car accident, heart attack, etc. Then tell the dispatcher where the incident is.
Stay on the phone. The dispatcher may ask more questions or want you to stay on the line. Emergency units already have been dispatched even while you are talking with the dispatcher.
Children should be taught their home address and telephone number as soon as possible. In most cases, when a caller dials 9-1-1, the address and phone number of the caller’s location is displayed to the 9-1-1 dispatcher. However, this is not always verified because of information that may be called in from cellular or mobile phones.
When the fire department responds to a given location, it may be delayed in arriving if the address is not clearly seen from the street. Although it’s fairly easy to spot a column of smoke from a house fire, it’s difficult to see someone’s heart attack from the street. In a medical emergency, firefighters may waste critical time having to knock on several doors to try and find a correct address. Make sure your address is clearly visible from the street with numbers at least three or four inches in height and reflective, if possible.
This problem is compounded in large condominium and apartment complexes. Arriving at a correct address, the engine company finds a huge residential facility with many buildings in the complex. Make sure large identification lettering or numbering is mounted on the side of the building. This is as important as the street address. It would be even better if someone could be standing near the street to direct the fire units to the appropriate apartment.
When an emergency vehicle is heard and/or seen, drivers should carefully pull their vehicle to the right of the road and stop. If they are at an intersection, or stopped in traffic when they see lights or hear a siren, drivers should remain stopped and wait until the emergency vehicles have passed. Do not make quick or erratic maneuvers. The law is very specific; drivers must yield the right-of-way to an emergency vehicle. Drivers also should stay 500 feet behind emergency vehicles.
A crash involving an emergency vehicle delays help to those who need it. Firefighters are careful to avoid vehicle collisions by driving slowly when traveling against traffic, or coming to a complete stop at intersections. The cooperation of all vehicles on the roadway is required.
Be careful when driving by or around a motor vehicle accident or any situation where emergency vehicles are parked and the firefighters are working. Resist the impulse to “rubber-neck.” This can cause additional collisions.
Even though fire apparatus are placed to protect firefighters, tragically, sometimes emergency crews have been hit and killed by passing vehicles.