VITEMA Recognizes April as National 9-1-1 Education Month
In recognition of the National 9-1-1 Education Month, the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) visited elementary schools to raise awareness among young students about when and how to use the emergency number.
“Ensuring that the community, including our student-age population, understands when and how to use the 9-1-1 system is critical for VITEMA,” said Elton Lewis, VITEMA Director. “Vital minutes used to address calls that are not emergencies or prank calls, could have been used to save a life. Every second counts.”
VITEMA gained jurisdiction of the 9-1-1 system after Gov. John P. de Jongh Jr. overhauled the Territory’s emergency management system between 2008 and 2010.
Eight national organizations have teamed up to recognize April as national 9-1-1 Education Month and have asked that public safety officials, schools, government officials, and industry leaders to engage in a national effort to educate children, seniors, and the general public about the importance and appropriate use of 9-1-1. VITEMA conducted special outreach to young children, between the ages of 8 and 11, to build awareness and to promote 9-1-1 education in schools.
VITEMA 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center staff joined with VI Police Department officers to visit elementary schools, and, through an interactive session, described for students what qualifies as an emergency and what they should do when calling 9-1-1. While the first step is ask an adult for assistance, such as a parent or teacher, situations may arise where there is no adult to assist. The teams spoke with students about memorizing their phone number and home address and about remaining calm and staying on the line during an emergency call.
“Our goal is to educate students about when and how to call 9-1-1 and what exactly is an emergency,” said Ninafe Awong, 911 ECC Manager for the St. Croix district. “We also discouraged them from making prank calls to the center. In each district, we often see a spike in pranks during the summer months when students are out of school.”
VITEMA’s ECCs, located on St. Croix and St. Thomas, manage an average of 30,000 calls per month.
VI Police Department officers also explained what happens when 9-1-1 dispatches police, giving a live demonstration of handheld radio communication with the Emergency Communications Center.
Nine national organizations have adopted 9-1-1 Education Month Resolutions including the United States House of Representatives.
The month of April was first recognized by the U.S. Congress in 2008 as National 9-1-1 Education Month in support of the National 9-1-1 Education Coalition, an alliance of eight national organizations dedicated to advancing public safety communications who joined together to advance 9-1-1 education across the country. Those organizations are the; E9-1-1 Institute, National Emergency Number Association, 9-1-1 For Kids, National Association of State 9-1-1 Administrators (NASNA), Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International (APCO), COMCARE Emergency Response Alliance, CTIA - The Wireless Association, and 9-1-1 Industry Alliance.