JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
In recent incidents, how to call 911 from a military installation has caused confusion for many people.
“We want to eliminate the confusion,” said Richard Campos, a Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph fire inspector. “Some people try to dial out 99 before calling 911, when that is not the case. You can call 911 from any cellphone or base phone and reach emergency services.”
When 911 is dialed, the call is directed to San Antonio 911 dispatchers. When callers inform the dispatchers that the emergency is located on a military installation, those dispatchers will immediately transfer the call to the dispatchers at the appropriate base.
“In the near future, hopefully one day we’ll have our own tower where the signal can go straight to our dispatchers on base, but until then, this is the route we go,” Campos said.
JBSA-Randolph’s dispatchers and fire department work closely to ensure the base population can get through to them and receive the response they need.
Campos described Humberto Sarabia Jr., lead dispatcher for the 502nd Civil Engineer Group/Fire Department and his crew, as the “fingers on the pulse.”
“Any emergency goes through them first and they’re the ones that send out the appropriate emergency crews,” Campos said.
Calling 911 is strictly for emergencies. Incidents such as fires, crimes, medical emergencies, crashes with injuries, gas leaks, suspicious activities and facility alarms ringing all justify dialing 911.
People should not call 911 for answers to questions, power outages, testing phones, teaching children about 911 and other similar situations.
Knowing what information to give to the dispatcher is critical for responders. When calling about an emergency, dispatchers are looking for the nature of the emergency, a specific address, the caller’s name and phone number, and the gender of the victim, if there is one. Having a point of contact waiting to greet the responders on arrival is just as important for their mission.
“It is also important to tell the dispatcher that you are at Randolph Air Force Base, so it can be transferred here as fast as possible,” Sarabia said.
After the dispatchers have received all the information needed, they notify the fire station for responders to make their way to the scene.
“Emergency responders take, from the moment the call is received to the actual dispatch, under three minutes to respond,” Campos said.
When on the phone with 911 dispatchers, staying calm and collected is vital for information to get routed quickly and for responders to effectively do their jobs. It’s imperative to be patient with the dispatchers when they ask questions as these questions are necessary for providing adequate help to the caller.
With nearly 200 911 emergency calls on base per year, Sarabia and his dispatchers are always ready, 24/7, to help.
“The last thing you want in an emergency is to hear the ‘beep-beep-beep’ of a busy dial tone,” Campos said.
For non-emergencies and administration questions, the JBSA-Randolph Fire Department can be reached at 210-652-6915/6916.