Monthly Archives: February 2015

February 9-1-1 Public Safety Dispatcher of the Month: Lisa Lee

San Francisco Department of Emergency Management’s 9-1-1 Dispatchers manage more than 1.2 million emergency and non-emergency calls annually and are often the “first” first–responders whom San Franciscans reach when facing an emergency or are in crisis.

Every month a DEM Public Safety Dispatcher is recognized for outstanding service while assisting those in crisis. This month DEM Public Safety Dispatcher Lisa Lee is being recognized for the care she provided to a woman in distress.


The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management has selected Public Safety Dispatcher Lisa Lee as Communications Dispatcher of the Month for February 2015 for her expeditious and compassionate customer service that she demonstrated during a 9-1-1 call from a woman who was audibly ill.  The caller told Public Safety Dispatcher Lee she was dizzy, and that she may be experiencing a heart attack or stroke.  Public Safety Dispatcher Lee immediately initiated a call for service with very limited information, while providing calming and comforting words of encouragement.

Public Safety Dispatcher Lee’s compassion moved the caller to personally thank her, which she expressed in a letter to DEM stating “I will be forever grateful for the quick action of all involved who responded.”


For more information about 9-1-1 in San Francisco visit

San Francisco's 9-1-1 Dispatch Floor

San Francisco’s 9-1-1 Dispatch Floor

What to Expect… When You Call 9-1-1

911 Dispatcher answering a call

Dispatchers are trained to pull and assess information from a caller so the right level of help can be sent quickly.

Calling 9-1-1 is serious business.  We want you to call 9-1-1 to receive help for emergencies, potential emergencies, or if you are not sure if it’s an emergency.  But happens when you call for help?  What should you say? What does the person on the other line need to know?  What if you forget something?

Dispatchers are trained to pull and assess information from a caller. Expect them to guide you with questions.  They know what information they need to get first in order to ensure the right type of help arrives in a timely manner, and the best way to get the assistance you need is to answer the questions in the order they ask them.

Here’s a quick guide to help us help you:

  • If you speak another language or dialect tell us right away. At push of a button, we can connect to a translator. San Francisco has translated 9-1-1 calls in more than 170 languages.
  • Let the dispatcher know what is happening. Is there a crime in progress? Is there a fire?  Does someone need medical help? This information lets our dispatchers know what type of help you need.
  • We want to know where the situation is occurring. Provide an exact address if you know it and don’t forget the floor and apartment number if you are in a building.  Unsure of where you are?  A nearby intersection or landmark will help.
  • When did the incident occur? It is important to know if this is an active situation so our dispatchers can prepare the first responders know what to expect.
  • Let us know who is involved. We want to know if it a family member, someone you know, or a stranger.  It also helps to know if there are multiple people involved and who they are.
  • If weapon was used then let us know. Telling a dispatcher about weapons helps keep the public and first responders safe.
  • Tell us if anyone is injured. If someone is hurt, our dispatchers will ask you a series of questions to determine what type of care is needed.  Our dispatchers are also trained to provide medical instruction until a medic arrives.

It is important to remember the type of response is based on the emergency.  San Francisco’s 9-1-1 call center receives more than 3,000 calls per day.  Not every call can or should involve emergency units traveling at high speeds with lights flashing and sirens blaring.  This type of response comes with inherent risk for the public and the first responders, but is rightly reserved for life-threatening emergencies.

We hope you rarely have to call 9-1-1.  But if you you or someone else is experiencing an emergency, then keep these tips in mind.  Our 9-1-1 dispatchers will help you get the help that you need in a timely manner.

911 Dispatchers answering phones

Call 9-1-1 to receive help for emergencies, potential emergencies, or if you are not sure if it’s an emergency.


Need some help figuring out when to call 9-1-1 check out our previous post Burning Building? Call 911. Burning Question? Call 311.  

Burning Building? Call 911. Burning Question? Call 311.


People dial 911 every day for all kinds of emergencies. At the Department of Emergency Management, our dispatchers are experts at sending the right kind of help to the right location – fast.

But sometimes people call 911 for things that are not emergencies. Like to ask for a Police Department phone number. Or to report stolen property. These non-emergency calls can tie up our 911 phone lines, and make it harder for real emergency calls to get through.

Fortunately, there’s a MUCH better number to call for non-emergency situations – 311. The expert staff at 311 can provide information on an amazing variety of non-emergency City services, both over the phone, and on the 311 app. And just like us, they are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can provide the answers you need in over 176 languages.

In short: Life-threatening emergency? Call 911. No urgency? Call 311.

Still not sure which number to call? Here’s a primer:

Burning Building? Call 911.                                  Burning Question? Call 311.

Bike accident? Call 911.                                      Bike stolen? Call 311.

Shots fired? Call 911.                                          Flu shots? Call 311.

Blocked airway? Call 911.                                   Blocked driveway? Call 311.

Building collapse? Call 911.                                Building permit? Call 311.

Car accident? Call 911.                                       Abandoned car? Call 311.

Person knocked out? Call 911.                           Street light out? Call 311.

Muni accident? Call 911.                                    Muni late? Call 311.

Need rescue after an earthquake? Call 911.      Need info after an earthquake? Call 311.

Need Police help immediately? Call 911.          Need a Police phone number? Call 311.

Escaped prisoner? Call 911.                                Escaped chihuahua? Call 311.








Get the picture? For life-threatening emergencies, call us at 911, and we’ll get the Police, Fire Department, or an ambulance to your side as fast as possible. For everything else you need from the City, call our friends at 311, and save 911 for the real emergencies.

SBA Offers Disaster Assistance to California Businesses and Residents Affected by the Mission District Fire

Local Mission District Restaurants Come to the Rescue

This blog comes to us from John McKnight, Director of Emergency and Disaster Services for the Salvation Army SF Metro and Golden State Division and who is leading the charge to feed the many San Franciscans who lost their homes due to last week’s numerous fires. 


The best restaurant in town may this week be at the Red Cross emergency shelter located, and hosted by The Salvation Army Mission Corps. An outpouring of generosity and support by local eating establishments in the Mission have filled up most of the meals scheduled for the Shelter residents. Initially, the Mass Feeding Coordinator, John McKnight of The Salvation Army, was put in contact with Vinny Eng of Tartine Bakery and Shakirah Simley of BiRite who began rallying and coordinating all of the good will in the area, on top of delivering meals from their restaurants through the week. Tartine has taken on all of the shelter’s breakfasts, and BiRite has given us the materials to make lunches for the children whose lunches we pack daily.

To date our meal plan includes fine foods from Tacolicious, HeyDay, Sprig, and more eateries are lining up to help. “I must tell you what a wonderful treat it is to be feeding the people of this shelter with such fine foods,” says John McKnight..”They have been through so much, and this generosity by local restaurants is giving the survivors healthy food to eat, and great meals to share together as a community.”
Salvation Army_Feeding Blog

Salvation Army Lunches

Salvation Army Dinner

Salvation Army Dinner Prep


And in the spirit of the how food can bring us together during an emergency, check out our SF72 story from Charles Phan of the Slanted Door: