At the May 21 Public Health And Safety Committee meeting, Ward 2 Commissioner Kevin Spearing expressed concern over how the Montgomery County 911 Emergency Dispatch Call Center is utilized.
“It’s my belief that a lot of our residents and people in general are reluctant to use the 911 call center for non-emergency calls,” Spearing told the committee.
While Spearing was unable to attend last week’s open invitation to visit the county’s 911 call center, located in Norristown, he did send his concerns to the county in a letter.
Spearing said that he often contacts the county’s 911 call center in his daily travels throughout the county, as his position with Aqua requires a lot of driving.
“I’m a regular user of it, cause I’m out in traffic every day,” Spearing said. “I regularly report new traffic routes or patterns that would affect other municipalities.”
Spearing said that he often reports road closures or new traffic patterns, and asks the county’s call taker to pass the information along to the respective municipality.
He then suggested that there should be an informational campaign on how best to use the county’s 911 call center. He also said, if enough non-emergency calls are made, perhaps a non-emergency number should then be created.
Ward 1 commissioner Lisa Romaniello, also addressing the committee, said that she recalled a recent instance in her ward, where a family was reluctant to call 911. She explained that the family saw a dangling electric wire off a pole, but since it was suspended several feet from the ground, the wire didn’t appear to be an immediate threat.
Romaniello said that Ward 1 residents may sometimes call her first with residential issues, however, she said that she encourages all residents to directly contact police when faced with any questionable circumstance.
“We should probably promote that, get that word out there,” Romaniello said. “We do have a county-wide dispatch center.”
When to dial 911?
In a previous, Upper Moreland Police Department moved its dispatch service to merge with the county’s in August 2010.
During the committee meeting, Upper Moreland Police Chief Thomas Nestel explained that the move was a cost-saving measure. However, he emphasized that the community can still directly contact the department at 215-657-4700 for non-emergency or business concerns during its regular business hours, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
He added, while the Upper Moreland Police Department is active 24-hours a day, after its regular business hours, calls to the department go directly to the county’s 911 call center for processing. Such calls also include those that go through the call box, located at the front door of the police department, which is housed in the Upper Moreland Township Building.
When asked his thoughts on when residents should dial 911 directly, Nestel, in a correspondence with Patch, said, “If someone wants the police to respond somewhere in Montgomery County, they need to call 911.”
Montgomery County deputy director of communications John Corcoran agrees.
“If you have an emergency, call 911,” Corcoran told Patch.
He explained that calls to the county’s 911 call center are first processed by a “call-taker.” The call-taker will help determine the location of the caller and assess the caller’s situation. If the situation is found to be an emergency, the call-taker will work with a dispatcher to send the appropriate emergency personnel, while remaining on the phone with the 911 caller.
He said that calls that are non-emergency in nature, including calls for routine business or accident reports for car insurance claims, should be made to the municipality’s 10-digit phone number.
Corcoran also said that the county has just released a brochure on what to expect when someone dials 911 (see .pdf above).
The Upper Moreland Police Department can be called during its regular business hours at (215) 657-4700 or by visiting the department in the Township Building, located at 117 Park Ave. in Willow Grove.