RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond is flipping the switch on its 911 system, which they say will improve emergency response.

With this new system, people who call or text 911 will face more questions and those questions could be structured in a different order, so they can get as much detailed information as possible. 

State mandates and programs, like the Marcus Alert, required call takers to have specialized training for the new 911 system. Emergency communications officers in Richmond have been training with the new system for almost a year.

The new system launched Monday with the goal of giving 911 callers and texters the proper response. When someone calls 911 for help, call takers will ask questions like “What is your name?” or “What is your location?”.

As call takers fill out the information, dispatchers are receiving that information simultaneously and will send out first responders to the scene.

Karen Gill, the Communications and Marketing Analyst for the city’s Department of Emergency Communications, said one of the most important things call takers need to know is your location.

“The callers might be asked to describe vehicles, suspects, directions of travel things like that. But in any case, whatever questions that they’re being asked the response is not being slowed at all,” she said.

The emergency operations center averages a time of about 90 seconds — from picking up the 911 call to dispatching first responders.

In 2021, the center received 264,117 calls. The center also received 2,137 texts to 911 last year. 

For the past four years, 911 text messaging has been used by people who are deaf and hard of hearing, suffering a medical emergency or are in danger. 

Gill said the center can staff 71 full time emergency communications officers, but they’re short 33. This could cause some delays in picking up people’s 911 calls or texts, but she urges people to always stay on the line and to not hang up.

The delay would only be for a couple seconds, if it happens at all, said Gill. She warned that hanging up and calling back would cause a further delay.

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