During last week’s San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting at City Hall, 9-1-1 Dispatcher Stephen Golden received a commendation for being DEM’s Dispatcher of the Year. Stephen was selected for this honor based on his outstanding work during a 9-1-1 call from a visitor to San Francisco, who needed to send medical aid to her family residence in Columbia, Maryland. The caller explained she was visiting San Francisco to speak at a symposium and that when she called home, her three year old son answered the phone and told her his father was lying on the floor in the closet. She also had a one year old son at home.
Stephen made attempts to locate a telephone number to notify Emergency Services in Columbia, but to no avail. He asked the caller to tell him the largest nearby city, and she said Baltimore. Stephen continued to gather information from the caller, including her home address, husband’s name, neighbor contact information and even where a spare key to her home could be found. The neighbor and Baltimore Emergency Services were able to go the caller’s home and respond to the situation.
Stephen also asked the caller if she had a work colleague traveling with her, which she did, and Stephen was able to contact the colleague who could be with her. “I believe that contacting the colleague was particularly important,” said Stephen while accepting his commendation. “No one should be told of a loved one’s death, then be alone.”
Emergency Services in Maryland ultimately confirmed that the caller’s husband had passed away, but both children were fine. Stephen remained on the phone with the caller for 39 minutes (well exceeding the average 9-1-1 call length of two minutes), providing comfort and solace. “I stayed with my caller because I sensed what was coming,” Stephen shared with the Board of Supervisors during the meeting.
Although the outcome of this 9-1-1 call was tragic, it was Stephen’s focused and effective work that sent emergency services to the caller’s home on the other side of the country, while at the same time providing compassion and support to the distressed caller.
About the DEM 9-1-1 Call Center
DEM serves as the 9-1-1 call center for Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services. The center handles approximately 1 million calls annually. Of these calls, 80 percent are for police matters, 14 percent are for emergency medical Services, and 6% are for fire suppression. Seventy percent of the 9-1-1 calls DEM receives are from cellular phones. In 2000, DEM became the first agency in California to accept wireless calls, instead of receiving transfers from the California Highway Patrol (CHP).
The center is the third busiest Public Safety Answering Point in California, behind Los Angeles and San Diego (not including CHP call centers). The average answering time for 9-1-1 calls is three seconds. DEM has the ability to translate calls into 173 different languages and dialects; Spanish and Cantonese are the top two most commonly translated languages.