When You Call 911

The New Hanover County Public Safety Communications Center is a consolidated 911 emergency communications facility. All emergency 911 calls and dispatch communications for Police, Fire, and EMS calls for service are handled by the Public Safety Communications Center.

911 handles a variety of emergency and general administrative calls. In a given 24-hour period, an average of more than four hundred (400) 911 calls are received from someone needing emergency assistance. The PSCC also receives approximately 1,000 calls a day from the public seeking other types of service and information. Calls for service include from vehicle accidents, breaking an entering, larcenies, suspicious subjects, check welfares, EMS calls and Fire calls. Once these calls are received, the appropriate emergency response agency is dispatched to the scene.

When you call 911, you are greeted by trained, caring personnel that want to assist you in your emergency situation. Each telecommunicator is qualified to assist with any type of emergency. Keeping the telecommunicators trained is one of our internal priorities. When a new telecommunicator is hired, they spend 240 hours in a class room setting learning about the 911 emergency system, how to take and enter calls, and the basics of how the dispatch process operates. After completing the training academy, telecommunicators are transferred to the PSCC. In the heart of all operations, the telecommunicator begins 40 hours of supervised call-taking, answering live emergency and administrative calls. Upon completion of training, the telecommunicator is released to complete 40 more hours of individual call taking. After graduating from training, the communicator is released to a shift and begins working towards obtaining required certifications. Completing the training process is a challenging experience for all future telecommunicators.

All telecommunicators are required to obtain several certifications within one year of employment. Three of the primary certifications that are required include:

  • Telecommunicator Certification – granted by the North Carolina Sheriff’s Education and Training Standards Commission under authority of Title 12, North Carolina Administrative Code, Subchapter 10B.
  • EMD Certification – granted by the National Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatch. This certification also requires certification in CPR.
  • EFD Certification – granted by the National Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatch.
  • North Carolina DCI Certification – granted by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations, Division of Criminal Information

As the Center enters into the 21st century, we are committed to provide new technology and equipment that will ensure continued emergency communications support that the citizens of New Hanover County have come to expect.

The three-digit telephone number “9-1-1” has been designated as the “Universal Emergency Number,” for citizens throughout the United States to request emergency assistance. It is intended as a nationwide telephone number and gives the public fast and easy access to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).

  • In the United States, the first catalyst for a nationwide emergency telephone number was in 1957, when the National Association of Fire Chiefs recommended use of a single number for reporting fires.
  • In 1967, the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice recommended that a “single number should be established” nationwide for reporting emergency situations. The use of different telephone numbers for each type of emergency was determined to be contrary to the purpose of a single, universal number.
  • Other Federal Government Agencies and various governmental officials also supported and encouraged the recommendation. As a result of the immense interest in this issue, the President’s Commission on Civil Disorders turned to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a solution.
  • In November 1967, the FCC met with the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) to find a means of establishing a universal emergency number that could be implemented quickly. In 1968, AT&T announced that it would establish the digits 9-1-1 (nine-one-one) as the emergency code throughout the United States.
  • The code 9-1-1 was chosen because it best fit the needs of all parties involved. First, and most important, it met public requirements because it is brief, easily remembered, and can be dialed quickly. Second, because it is a unique number, never having been authorized as an office code, area code, or service code, it best met the long range numbering plans and switching configurations of the telephone industry.
  • Congress backed AT&T’s proposal and passed legislation allowing use of only the numbers 9-1-1 when creating a single emergency calling service, thereby making 9-1-1 a standard emergency number nationwide. A Bell System policy was established to absorb the cost of central office modifications and any additions necessary to accommodate the 9-1-1 code as part of the general rate base.
  • With Enhanced 9-1-1, or E9-1-1, local PSAPs are responsible for paying network trunking costs according to tariffed rates, and for purchasing telephone answering equipment from the vendor of their choice.
  • On February 16, 1968, Senator Rankin Fite completed the first 9-1-1 call made in the United States in Haleyville, Alabama. The serving telephone company was then Alabama Telephone Company. This Haleyville 9-1-1 system is still in operation today.
  • On February 22, 1968, Nome, Alaska implemented 9-1-1 service.
  • In March 1973, the White House’s Office of Telecommunications issued a national policy statement which recognized the benefits of 9-1-1, encouraged the nationwide adoption of 9-1-1, and provided for the establishment of a Federal Information Center to assist units of government in planning and implementation.
  • The intense interest in the concept of 9-1-1 can be attributed primarily to the recognition of characteristics of modern society, i.e., increased incidences of crimes, accidents, and medical emergencies, inadequacy of existing emergency reporting methods, and the continued growth and mobility of the population.
  • In the early 1970s, AT&T began the development of sophisticated features for the 9-1-1 with a pilot program in Alameda County, California. The feature was “selective call routing.” This pilot program supported the theory behind the Executive Office of Telecommunication’s Policy.
  • By the end of 1976, 9-1-1 was serving about 17% of the population of the United States. In 1979, approximately 26% of the population of the United States had 9-1-1 service, and nine states had enacted 9-1-1 legislation. At this time, 9-1-1 service was growing at the rate of 70 new systems per year. By 1987, those figures had grown to indicate that 50% of the US population had access to 9-1-1 emergency service numbers.
  • In addition, Canada recognized the advantages of a single emergency number and chose to adopt 9-1-1 rather than use a different means of emergency reporting service, thus unifying the concept and giving 9-1-1 international stature.
  • At the end of the 20th century, nearly 93% of the population of the United States was covered by some type of 9-1-1 service. Ninety-five percent of that coverage was Enhanced 9-1-1. Approximately 96% of the geographic US is covered by some type of 9-1-1.

9-1-1 Origin & History provided in part by the National Emergency Number Association

I am the voice that calms the mother into breathing life back into her apneic infant son.

I am the invisible hand that holds and comforts the elderly man who woke up this morning to find his wife of 50 years has passed away during the night.

I am the friend who talks the disgruntled teenager out of ending her own life.

I sent help when you had your first automobile accident.

I am the one who tries to obtain the information from callers to ensure that the scene is safe or those I dispatch to emergencies–all the while anticipating the worst and hoping for the best.

I am the psychologist who readily adapts my language and tone of voice to serve the needs of my callers with compassion and understanding.

I am the ears that listen to the needs of all those I serve.

I have heard the screams of faceless people I never will meet nor forget.

I have cried at the atrocities of mankind and rejoiced at the miracles of life.

I was there, though unseen, by my comrades in the field during the most-trying emergencies.

I have tried to visualize the scene to coincide with the voice I heard.

I usually am not privy to the outcome of a call, and so I wonder…

I am the one who works weekends, strange shifts and holidays. Children say they want my job when they grow up. Yet, I am at this vocation by choice.

Those I help do not call back to say thank you. Still there is comfort in the challenge, integrity and purpose of my employment.

I am thankful to provide such a meaningful service.

I am a mother, father, sister, brother, son or daughter.

I am where you need me and still here when you don’t.

My office is never empty, and the work here is never done. I am always on call. The training is strenuous, demanding and endless. No two days at work are ever the same!


I am an emergency dispatcher, and I am proud.

Emergency Management & 911: 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 115 • Wilmington, NC 28403 • Phone 910-798-6900 • Fax 910-798-6904