The goal of emergency communications centers is to answer incoming 9-1-1 calls on a timely basis and dispatch the right service to the correct address. Communication centers need up-to-date technology and trained telecommunicators to do the job successfully, which helps reduce loss of property, economic assets, and — most importantly — lives.
That's why emergency communications are an important part of ISO's Public Protection Classification (PPC™) program. PPC provides important, up-to-date information about the quality of public fire protection in more than 47,500 fire protection areas across the United States. We evaluate fire departments, water supply systems, emergency communications, and community risk reduction efforts and assign a grade from 1 (exceptional fire protection) to 10. A maximum of 10 points of the overall PPC grade is based on emergency communications and our review of how well a community handles 9-1-1 calls and dispatches services for structure fires and other emergencies. Communication centers process calls for fire departments, police, emergency medical providers, and other service providers that all work together in the event of a disaster. Our review concentrates on facilities for the public to report fires and emergencies, staffing, training, and certification of telecommunicators.
We base our evaluations on nationally recognized standards developed by the Association of Public-Safety Communication Officials International (APCO) and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). ISO works very closely with APCO, NENA, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), county coordinators, directors, and staff at the communications centers we survey. We've found that the most critical factor in responding to emergencies is telecommunicators. Having a sufficient number of well-trained telecommunicators can make all the difference when responding to an emergency, and our evaluation gives this component the weight it deserves.
Emergency communications systems should effectively, efficiently, and reliably receive and process alarms and notify emergency responders. Our field analysts evaluate:
- the emergency reporting system and response to 9-1-1 calls
- the communications center, including the number of telecommunicators and their training and experience
- computer-aided dispatch (CAD) facilities
- dispatch circuits and how emergency responders are notified about the location of the incident
Aiding the community
Our evaluations can help define deficiencies in emergency communications services and provide recommendations on how to mitigate them. Fire departments, county coordinators, and center directors can use our data to help create reports for governing boards and directors — justifying staffing, technology and resource improvements, and budgets. If your community has a public safety communications center, you can improve your PPC grade by monitoring emergency circuits for integrity.
For details on how we score emergency communications, see items considered in the FSRS.
For details on how we conduct the survey, see Fire Alarm Survey.