Commentary

911, where are you?

While on my way to the airport to pick up a friend flying in from Manila on the way to Bohol, a motorcycle turning right towards the direction of the old Mactan-Mandaue Bridge (what locals call as “Pocherohan”, now the site of a popular pizza delivery service) miscalculated the speed at which he was turning right, probably got surprised with the unexpected bumps in the intersection, and slammed into the island at the middle of A.C. Cortes Ave.

Of course, a good citizen as I am *wink*, I got off my motorcycle, and helped the poor guy. Another motorcyclist also helped and together we made sure that the injured person’s ABC (airway, breathing, and circulation) were okay. Satisfied, I then called up 911. The lady was helpful, but we wasted four minutes of our respective lives because she was unable to get the exact address despite all the hints that we have given. I told her that I know that the place is in Mandaue City, and I requested that I be transferred to an agent who is native to Mandaue City so that we could effectively communicate my location (and thus the location of the injured person). She refused to do so, instead just asking me for the barangay (to be honest, I did not know, although I have passed through this area countless times). She also asked me under which police station the area belonged to – I mean, if I could not identify the barangay, how much less the police station with jurisdiction over the area. All the while, I was giving him the names of the establishments near the area: Visayan Educational Supply, Easy Rent a Car, Alberto’s…

A simple Google search now would reveal that it is indeed quite easy to locate on Google Maps where’s “Alberto’s A.C. Cortes”…

She could have done such simple search on Google, and she would have known our location within seconds.

It was a good thing that the injury was not serious – we just brought to the side the injured person and then we went on our respective ways. But what if there was a matter of true emergency? For example, when minutes matter?

I do not know how the government had been manning these call centers which answer the 911 calls. I wish they could train their agents better so that they should be able to extract the location in a given number of seconds (perhaps in under a minute?) with just the establishments seen by the reporter as guide. There are already a lot of data on this; all needed is simply to be more conversant with Google Search.

This is not the first time I complained about the apparent lack of spatial and locational knowledge of the agents manning the 911 call center. (See my October 10, 2016 post.)

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Hire local operators. If a Mandaue City call comes in, somebody from Mandaue City should be assigned to deal with it.
  2. Train operators to utilize Google Search and other tools at their disposal to identify the location of the caller.
  3. For mobile calls, perhaps an arrangement with the telcos could be arranged where a 911 call is automatically triangulated; coupled with the other information from the caller, the operator should be able to pinpoint the caller’s location with relative ease.
  4. Better yet, local government units, esp. barangays, should probably just post the contact numbers of the emergency services with jurisdiction over the area – this has been done in Cebu City and in some barangays of Lapu-Lapu City.

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