APD dispatchers present 9-1-1 for Kids at ECMS

Tom Tschida explains the 911 system and its procedures to the students.

News Staff Writer

When Atmore Police Department Public Communications Officers (PCO) Tom Tschida and Nicole Barnes were setting up for their Monday, May 6, presentation of 9-1-1 for Kids at Escambia County Middle School, they weren’t sure what to expect.
By the time the 30-minute demonstration on when and how to properly use 911 and how to act when on the phone with a 911 dispatcher, any doubts they might have harbored had been erased.
“I thought they had some really good answers,” Tschida (pronounced ‘She-da’) said after fielding questions from more than 100 fifth- and sixth-grade students. “They were very attentive. I was impressed with some of the questions they asked. They were thinking outside the box. I think they’ve pretty much got it.”
The program included a slide show presentation, with a few comical scenes inserted, that explained the procedure for contacting emergency dispatchers and having help sent to them. Barnes, a former Jay, Fla. teacher, handled the computer while Tschida did the talking.
The three main points it made were: in an emergency, first find a phone and call 911; second, remain calm as you answer the dispatcher’s questions; and third, stay on the phone until help arrives.
Tschida told the teens the worst thing they can do, from the viewpoint of an emergency responder, is to call 911, then hang up.
“We handle all types of different calls, but the worst calls are when you accidentally dial 911, then hang up,” he explained. “We don’t know what happened — maybe you’re sick and you dropped your phone; maybe somebody’s breaking into your house and saw you, and you dropped the phone.
“If you accidentally dial 911 [and hang up], it’s not a big deal. We’re not going to get mad at you. We’re going to send the police, though, and they might get mad at you, but we won’t.”
He also told the adolescents that 911 may be called from any phone, except one that has no charge, and stressed that when a person has reached a dispatcher, he or she has to remain calm.
“Any phone can call 911, unless it’s dead,” he said. “Whatever kind of phone it is, don’t be afraid to use it. Remember to speak calmly when you give the address of where you are. Some of us are old, so talk real slow and clear.”
Nicole Jones, a counselor at ECMS, said she was also impressed with the Emergency Communications students.
“They asked very good questions,” Jones said. “This is really important, especially with summer coming up. There are more opportunities for emergencies in the summer, when parents are away, or kids are outside playing.
“They seem to know how to contact authorities, and it’s good to know there a lot of students in our community who know how to call 911, who know that the phone can do more than just bring up games and things like that.”