By SUSANNE KAPPLER, Fort Jackson LeaderApril 1, 2010
FORT JACKSON, SC -- Members of the Fort Jackson community now have a new way of calling for help in case of an emergency. Cell phone users can now dial 751-9111 to connect directly to the Fort Jackson 911 center.
In the past, the only means for cell phone users on Fort Jackson to call in an emergency was to call 911. Cell phone calls to 911 are answered by the Richland County 911 operator. The callers have to identify their location on Fort Jackson to be routed to the 911 operator on post, who then dispatches the responders.
Typically, the time it takes to transfer calls is less than one minute, said Bill Forrester, Fort Jackson fire chief. However, Forrester said the Directorate of Emergency Services wanted to provide cell phone users a way to connect to the correct emergency center without any delays.
Callers who dial 911 from any landline phone on Fort Jackson are automatically routed to the correct operator.
"(The new) number does not replace what's already in existence. It's just an additional avenue you have now," Forrester said. "Really, we were targeting the cell phone user audience. Still any hard-wire phone on Fort Jackson -- you dial 911, you're going to get a Fort Jackson 911 operator."
Forrester said that callers can still call 911 from their cell phones, but have to remember to immediately tell the operator that they are on Fort Jackson to avoid unnecessary delays. He said he encourages members of the Fort Jackson community to program the new number, including the area code, into their cell phones.
Fort Jackson residents who use Internet phone services should ensure that 911 calls are routed to the correct location, Forrester said.
"It's essential that if you have an Internet phone service ... you need to contact your provider and register your 911 number with the local 911 center, which is Fort Jackson," he said.
Members of the community should not be afraid to call 911 or 751-9111, Forrester said.
"Never, ever, ever hesitate to call 911," he said. "We hear all the time, 'We didn't want to bother you. We're not really sure if it's an emergency.' Let us make that determination; 911 is there to help you. If you even contemplate that it may be an emergency, call 911."
Callers who do make the call should never hang up until they are told to hang up, he added. Forrester also emphasized that it is important to have as much information as possible when calling 911.
"Always be prepared to give the operators all the information they ask for. At a minimum, you need to provide an address," he said. "If (the callers) don't know an address, then we don't know how to get to them. And that is particularly important to the military units. A lot of times (callers) don't know what building number they're in. They know they're in unit 2-13, for example. We can get the address from that information; it's just going to take us a little bit longer."
Callers who don't call from a building should give the operator information that makes it easy to be located, such as street names, range number, fire break identifier or GPS coordinates.
Finally, callers should always leave a phone number, Forrester said.
"The operators will obtain pertinent information to start a response," he said. "Then they're going to dispatch to the corresponding fire, police or Emergency Medical Services units. Then they're getting back with the caller to get some more detailed information to provide to the responders."