The Los Angeles 911 system consists of city and county fire departments, police departments, and emergency medical service providers. There are two primary ways a 911 call is handled by the 911 system: through a call on a cell phone or through a call on a land line. These calls will be directed to a primary Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) government agency, where the call can then be transferred to a secondary PSAP, such as the LA City Fire Department(link is external) or LA County Fire Department(link is external). When the call reaches a call center, or PSAP, it will be taken by a call taker, transferred to a dispatcher, and then relayed to first responders by a radio operator. Based on the needs of the call, the dispatcher will respond with the appropriate level of resources for the emergency. If a person needs to be transported via ambulance, the LA City Fire Department will use its own vehicles to do so. However, LA County Fire contracts out its ambulance services to private companies, such as American Medical Response. The private ambulance companies utilize their own dispatch center and will respond in conjunction with the fire department to emergencies.
When dialing 911 from a landline, the phone number is identified through Automatic Number Identification (ANI) and the physical address is identified through Automatic Location Identification (ALI). The Master Street Address Guide (MSAG), a database that pairs the location with the appropriate PSAP, further supports ANI and ALI. However, the majority of 911 calls now originate from cell phones. A 911 call from a cell phone in California is directed to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) (link is external)and does not provide CHP with location, the caller’s number, or other vital information. Therefore, it is apparent that the CHP has an increasingly large volume of 911 calls, yet is equipped with fewer resources to identify vital information. In response to these growing challenges, enhanced wireless 911 service has already begun to be implemented in Los Angeles in which 911 calls from cell phones will bypass CHP and instead be routed to local PSAPs with ANI and ALI technology.
Now, how does it all come together?
Scenario 1: Reporting an accident
You’re driving to work in Los Angeles. At a typically congested intersection, you witness an accident between a car and a motorcycle. You decide to pull over and dial 911 on your cell phone. What happens next? Where does your call go between the accident and the first responders arriving on scene?
The call is captured by the nearest cellular tower and routed to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) Dispatch Center in downtown Los Angeles. There, a dispatcher answers your call and asks a set of standard questions, including but not limited to, the location, the type of emergency, and your phone number. The dispatcher will then assess the types of resources needed (such as police, fire, or EMS).
Once the dispatcher has determined the location, they will transfer the call to an appropriate local dispatch center. In the case of the motorcycle versus vehicle, the local dispatcher will likely respond to the police department to control traffic and scene safety, the fire department to provide medical aid and rescue if needed, and EMS to provide medical aid and transport to the hospital. Additionally, the dispatcher will continue to gather information for the first responders arriving on scene and assist the caller throughout the emergency.
Scenario 2: Medical emergency at home
You’re eating lunch in your Los Angeles apartment with your roommate. All of a sudden, your roommate appears to have a severe allergic reaction to something in the food. You grab your landline phone and dial 911.
Because you are dialing from a landline, the call is routed to a local law enforcement agency. In the case of a landline 911 call, the dispatcher will immediately receive computer-aided information such as first responder jurisdictions, the telephone number of the caller, and the address the call is made from. After determining the type of emergency, the initial dispatcher will then notify appropriate local agencies to respond to the emergency. Then the dispatcher will continue to gather information for the first responders arriving on scene and assist the caller throughout the emergency.
Scenario 3: You witness suspicious activity
You are at a crowded mall when you witness suspicious activity. A lone person appears nervous, anxious, and is constantly peering over his shoulder. Suddenly, you witness him set down a briefcase outside of a storefront and briskly walk away. You decide to contact the police.
Your 911 dispatcher will likely thank you for reporting what you saw. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) does not and cannot solely rely on its personnel for crime prevention. Information from civilians, or tips, to the LAPD provides a vital contribution to the police department’s crime fighting efforts. Thus, the LAPD has implemented a variety of ways for one to report crime.
The primary ways to report crime can be accomplished through either TEXT-A-TIP or by calling 800-222-TIPS. When one contacts these numbers, it is directed to a main detective at the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD)(link is external) Headquarters. This main detective will then assess the tip, its reliability, and the location that it occurred. If the tip is deemed valid, it is forwarded to a detective in the local police department located in the section in which the crime occurred.
In Los Angeles, LAPD has the ability to notify all of its 25 sections. If the tip is connected to crime that occurred across multiple sections, LAPD HQ may notify all detectives in the sections involved. From the point at which the local detective is notified, he or she will then assess the tip and respond accordingly.
If one would like their tip to be pursued by a federal agency, it is advised by LAPD to contact the relevant agency directly, with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS requests that citizens report what they’ve observed via LAPD. The LAPD will then share tips through liaisons.
NY Times 911 Article: The 911 system is not ready for the iPhone Era
The main theme of this article is to highlight the outdated technology the United States uses for 911 calls. Not only is the technology itself behind its times, but also the system in which 911 runs. 911 cannot receive pictures or text messages, both common forms of communication in today’s world. The good thing is, there is a new system called “New Generation 911” or NG911. This system can support an influx in callers, receive varying forms of communication and overall make the 911 system more accessible. However, due to the cost and lack of resources, the switch to NG911 has been next to little. The F.C.C has implemented certain regulations to ensure communication between a caller and 911, yet there is little movement on the political side to ensure NG911 is available to everyone, disregarding class. Technology is changing at a rapid rate, and in order to ensure the safety of America, it is vital that politicians encourage and support NG911.
To provide anonymous tips, text CRIMES (274637) on your cell phone and begin the message with the letters LAPD.
You may submit an anonymous tip anytime, anywhere, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by phone 800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477)
More ways to report information or get help, outside of a natural or manmade disaster:
Battered Women Hotline
(City of L.A. 3-1-1)
Mothers Against Drunk Drivers MADD
Narcotic Drug Abuse
Local Los Angeles FBI Division Contact
11000 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Phone: (310) 477-6565
Fax: (310) 996-3359