ELLSWORTH — Back in the day if your house caught on fire you could call for help, give a dispatcher your address and hang up.
But now, dispatchers need details from callers, in part so those responding to your emergency know best how to help.
On May 15, the Hancock County Regional Communications Center began a new system for answering fire and other emergency calls.
“If you call 911, be prepared to listen to questions and give answers as brief and concise as possible,” said RCC Director Bob Conary. “Help is on the way, but we need details.”
Conary said the system is rolling out statewide — not just locally. Many other parts of the country have already been using fire protocols because the information gathered helps responders prioritize and decide what type of response is warranted.
“It standardizes the types of questions we ask,” Conary said.
For example, if a caller is reporting a vehicle fire, there’s a difference in the response warranted depending on whether the vehicle on fire is on a roadside or in someone’s attached garage, Conary said.
Conary wants Hancock County residents to know that even though callers may tell his dispatchers “just get here,” they have to ask more questions.
“That frustrates people when we start asking different things,” Conary said. “We’re only as good as the information we’ve got.”
Dispatchers will ask you the basics such as name, address, phone number and what happened.
Among other questions you may expect to answer are what type of building is on fire, if anyone is trapped and where the fire started.
Meanwhile, rest assured that even though the dispatchers keep asking questions, they’ve already dispatched help.
Conary said there’s a possibility that having the local communications center certified in fire dispatching may improve ISO ratings, which affect homeowners’ insurance rates.