911

Tracy Jackson
Courtesy of Broward County / WLRN

There's a new person in charge of emergency management in Broward County.

Tracy Jackson started as the director of regional public safety and emergency services at the end of May, days before this year's hurricane season began. In addition to hurricane preparation, he now oversees Broward's regional 911 system. 

Jackson began his career as a firefighter in the  Miami Fire Rescue Department in 1982. He was the division chief of support services during and after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, heading up logistics.

Markus Spiske / Flickr/Creative Commons

People living in Palm Beach County have a new way to reach 911 in an emergency: by text message.

Anyone in the county with a cell phone can send a text to 911 describing their emergency. The message will immediately begin a text conversation with an operator - just like a call.

“We will be able to text back and determine what the emergency is and get you the appropriate resources - police, fire, paramedics,” said Natalie Heneks, communications supervisor at Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

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With about 80 percent of 911 calls made from mobile devices, it's sometimes difficult for emergency responders to pinpoint the location of those callers.

Associated Press

Broward County’s 911 system was widely criticized after communication failures during the 2017 airport shooting in Fort Lauderdale. Now it's under scrutiny again for similar failures during the Parkland shooting. 

Files show that critical upgrades have been recommended on the system since at least 2016; most were never made.

An unconscious woman, a robbery in progress, cars racing on the interstate: All of these incidents led people to call Houston's 911 system — but not for long. These were among thousands of calls that were cut short by an operator who Harris County prosecutors said simply hung up on the callers.

That former operator is Crenshanda Williams, who has been sentenced to 10 days in jail and 18 months of probation on two counts of interfering with an emergency telephone call.

Most people are familiar with some form of triage: When you go to an emergency room, you first sit down with a triage nurse who records your symptoms, takes your vital signs and assesses the urgency of your medical need.

As of Thursday, that's happening over the phone for 911 callers in Washington, D.C., where triage nurses now sit alongside 911 dispatchers to help field calls.