911 system celebrates 50 years of service

The very first 911 call was made 50 years ago, and paved the way for people to get help even faster. It’s estimated that 240 million emergency calls are made across the country each year. That includes about 30,000 calls coming through the La Crosse County dispatch center.

“This is 911 what’s the address of your emergency?”

On the first day of service, the dispatch center answered just 14 calls. Now operators answer mostly non-emergency calls.

“911 calls are about 10% of the total calls that the dispatch center gets,” said Jay Loeffler, administrator for La Crosse County Emergency Services.

Regardless of the situation, they’re the first ones to respond.

“I need some more information for my officer. Has it been physical?” asks Cory Lynch, supervisor for the La Crosse County Public Safety Communications Center.

Before information was written down by hand and operators had to call the individual agencies for help.

“My first year the only computer we had was running plates or names in to the state so we could find out who owned the vehicle,” Loeffler said.

Each desk is equipped with six monitors to input information and automatically find the best agency to respond.

“We send the calls to the squad car’s computer and the officer reads them. And we also let them know by radio that the call is there,” Lynch said.

One one of the biggest changes has been the technology, but there’s always something new at the end of the line.

“That’s the best part of the job. It’s never the same day twice. It’s never the same call twice,” Lynch said.

Even if a group of people call about a car crash, they all provide a new perspective.

“If there’s injuries, if someone’s stuck in a car, if it’s a rollover, if something’s leaking,” Lynch said.

This information helps them provide the best response possible.

Sometimes they find out what happens once help arrives. Other times, they don’t.

“That call you took three phones ago was not really in your head anymore. You’ve moved on to the next thing,” Lynch said.

All they can do is answer the call.