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CoffeeBeans
04-12-2015, 01:29 AM
Hi folks -- tried the archives, but 911/Fire/dispatch wasn't turning up what I'm looking for.

I have a character calling in a building fire from a cell phone in modern day Philadelphia. I asked a friend who has a dispatcher for a sister (in a small town) who said a big city would have a different procedure and would transfer the call.

I'm mostly curious who my character would be talking to/transferred to, at what point in the conversation, and what further information would be asked for. She knows the building well, so I imagine there would be specific information she could give to help prepare the firefighters for what they'll see?

The character's friend is going into the building, even though it's a bad idea, and they do believe there are people in the building.

It's a one-story recent-ish built building (like 70s/80s) and I need the roof to partially collapse before the fire trucks get there.

Thank you folks!

King Neptune
04-12-2015, 02:33 AM
Hi folks -- tried the archives, but 911/Fire/dispatch wasn't turning up what I'm looking for.

I have a character calling in a building fire from a cell phone in modern day Philadelphia. I asked a friend who has a dispatcher for a sister (in a small town) who said a big city would have a different procedure and would transfer the call.

I'm mostly curious who my character would be talking to/transferred to, at what point in the conversation, and what further information would be asked for. She knows the building well, so I imagine there would be specific information she could give to help prepare the firefighters for what they'll see?

The location would be all that would be useful, unless there are people inside.


The character's friend is going into the building, even though it's a bad idea, and they do believe there are people in the building.This is something she could say, "My stupid friend is going into the building."


It's a one-story recent-ish built building (like 70s/80s) and I need the roof to partially collapse before the fire trucks get there.

Thank you folks!

How big isd the building and what kind of construction? If it is a fast food place, a stripmall, or other commercial building, then it probably has a steel frame, so some parts of the covering and internal parts may fall, but the roof won't collapse; although it may get down to bare, twisted steel beams. A residential building of that era would burn merrily, and there might be a partial collapse.

CoffeeBeans
04-12-2015, 02:45 AM
It is currently being used as a community center, but it could just as soon have been something else before it (commercial or residential, whatever works best.)

There are a lot of brick buildings in the area, but this one had been built in a spot where a few others had been torn down, and matching what was already there wasn't much of a priority, so materials are whatever works best. Size-wise, it's got two small class rooms, like 20x20, a lounge, two offices, and a restroom. If we're talking footage as far as "how big" in those terms, like 2000 sq ft?

King Neptune
04-12-2015, 03:12 AM
It is currently being used as a community center, but it could just as soon have been something else before it (commercial or residential, whatever works best.)

There are a lot of brick buildings in the area, but this one had been built in a spot where a few others had been torn down, and matching what was already there wasn't much of a priority, so materials are whatever works best. Size-wise, it's got two small class rooms, like 20x20, a lounge, two offices, and a restroom. If we're talking footage as far as "how big" in those terms, like 2000 sq ft?

You might be in luck. Something that small might be wood frame or have a wood truss roof, so the roof might start to collapse pretty quickly.
If you want the roof to partly collapse by the time the fire department shows up, then do that. It isn't unreasonable.

Cath
04-12-2015, 03:56 AM
Reminder, Story Research is not the forum to debate story ideas.

If anyone has an answer regarding how 911 calls work in big cities, please focus there.

franky_s
04-12-2015, 03:59 AM
I have some experience but this is Australia-base information so keep that in mind.




what further information would be asked for. She knows the building well, so I imagine there would be specific information she could give to help prepare the firefighters for what they'll see?

They will ask if there are any people still in the building or any locked rooms, how many, and their location/s, also, whether any of the people in the building are injured, unconscious, have mobility issues etc.

They will also ask if there are any chemicals stored in the building (combustible, explosive or chemicals that react with heat to create toxic gas). If so, where, what kind and what quantity.




The character's friend is going into the building, even though it's a bad idea, and they do believe there are people in the building.


If she tells the dispatcher this, the dispatcher will tell her to tell him not to go in.
(Where I live, it is illegal to re-enter a building after you've been evacuated - not sure what the deal is in the US.)

jclarkdawe
04-12-2015, 04:52 AM
Each state and big city does this a bit differently. It also depends upon which version of 9-1-1 they have.

But from what I can find in a quick search, 9-1-1 goes into a central office. That dispatcher records what the caller is saying, and that information is sent to the fire department's dispatcher. The caller only deals with the 9-1-1 dispatcher. The fire department dispatcher deals with what equipment is being dispatched.

Location is frequently transferred now by the GPS chip in your cell phone.

Building construction for a fire department is different from anyone elses. The information your character could provide is probably less than useless. What the dispatcher wants to hear is why the caller thinks there's a fire -- such as flames showing.

If the dispatcher is convinced there is an actual fire, a full box will be dispatched. This is usually three engines, one ladder, and one rescue, with a command officer. Response, however, varies because each area has different requirements.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Bolero
04-12-2015, 11:13 AM
Second what Jim says. In the UK, but have called in a couple of distant significant plumes of smoke in our rural area. Most likely cause is farmer's giant rubbish bonfire, but if it is near an area of houses I call in.
With 999 you reach an operator, who says "fire, police or ambulance". You say "fire" and reach the firebrigade - also a couple of questions about who you are and where calling from. You are addressed as "caller".

When I have said "well, it is probably just an enormous bonfire, but it is near an area of houses so its just possible its a house, its several miles away on the hill the other side of the valley" they then ask questions about colour of the smoke, can I see flames and are there any people in sight around the fire.
(Black, no, don't think so but hard to tell). If it was white smoke I don't bother as that would generally not be a house fire. We are also in an area with lots of chimneys so plumes from those sometimes.
It is always a brisk calm call - while they are talking with you, they are not handing on the information is my assumption and they stay business like, they don't react emotionally to what you are saying.

CoffeeBeans
04-12-2015, 02:11 PM
Thanks so much for all the help everyone!

As a follow up, how would the call finish? Once the character has given the location, answered about locked doors and people being inside, etc, what would be the end of the call - Dispatcher says to stay a safe distance away? "Thanks, bye!"? Tells her to wait for the firefighters to get there? Stays on the line?

Obviously, none of this is pivotal, but I figured I'd at least try to be accurate... ;)

vagough
04-12-2015, 03:25 PM
Triple what Jim said. I live in a big county (Fairfax VA, 1.2 million people) and the 911 call center here is huge. (There are a few pictures here (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/911/aboutus.htm), though they don't really capture the whole scope of how enormous the facility is. I've toured it twice, once with the citizens police academy and once with the citizens fire & rescue academy. It's really impressive!) The call comes in to the central dispatcher who then routes it over to the fire dispatchers who sit in another quadrant of the floor. They'll handle the call from there, gathering info, talking with the person until the trucks arrive. More info on procedures are here (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/911/) and here (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/911/calling.htm), in case that helps.

jclarkdawe
04-12-2015, 03:53 PM
Usually for structure fires they want to get you off the phone as soon as possible. That's because structure fires are rarely a single person calling in. Frequently it's multiple calls, and the dispatchers will need to respond to each call. The multiple calls help the fire department start to assess the situation. The more multiple calls the fire department is hearing about on their way to the scene, the more likely there will actually be a fire on the other end.

As the first engine is responding, they're using that big windshield to start to assess the situation. In the front passenger seat is an officer, who will be looking ahead for a smoke plume. If we're seeing a lot of smoke, we'll advise dispatch of the fact, and may start calling in additional alarms. It's better to call in too much equipment than not enough.

The caller will be able to tell we're coming, especially in a city. A structure fire is always siren and lights, and air horn to clear traffic from intersections. But the dispatcher the fire department is talking to will not be conveying the information that dispatcher is receiving to the caller's dispatcher. The caller's dispatcher doesn't need to know the details of the response. But the fire department's dispatcher will be needing to assign equipment, may be receiving requests for special equipment, and has to set up coverage of the area as equipment committed to one emergency is not available for another emergency.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Myrealana
04-12-2015, 04:56 PM
I have had occasion to call 911 in Denver and Denver suburbs a few times, once for a fire threatening the apartment building I was in.

This was about ten years ago, but I was not ever put on hold or transferred at any time. I dialed. The phone was answered on the second ring. A female dispatcher said "911. What is your emergency?"

I said "The bushes outside the apartment building are on fire. Some people were throwing fireworks out the window and the bushes caught on fire."

She asked about the extent. I explained it was a very large fire. I was on the 4th floor and the flames were already reaching my balcony. She said "I have your location as blah blah blah street, is that correct?" I verified, and she told me to hang up and evacuate the apartment using the stairs rather than the elevator and pull the fire alarm on my way out, which I did.

Pretty straight forward.

The trucks arrived a minute or so after I exited the building. They put the hedges out in fairly short order and spent 30 minutes or so checking for evidence. The police questioned everyone about what was happening, but we hadn't seen the faces or the specific apartment the fireworks were thrown from, we only knew they kept falling down past our balcony. I doubt they ever caught the people who started the fire. I never knew how many calls may have come in about that fire, but since the alarm didn't get pulled until after I got off the phone with the dispatcher, I suspect not many.

I've also called about a house fire in the new development across the street from my house in the suburbs. That place was still under construction, and I could only see the fire from my second floor. The call was answered the same way "911. What is your emergency?" This dispatcher was less eager to get me off the phone, as I was not calling from inside the burning structure. But in that case, I was obviously not the first caller, as the first truck arrived on the scene while I was still trying to figure out the right address to give her.

WeaselFire
04-13-2015, 02:02 AM
If it's a real city, call the non-emergency number and ask for information., There will be a Public Information Office that will help you with all the details you need.

Now, what do you need for your results to be?

Jeff