These are words often spoken by dispatchers and those working in emergency response centers throughout the world. They are the first words spoken and often lead to some of the most confusing and panic-driven conversations. People who have something to report, whether it be suspicious or an actual emergency, report as if the person on the other line is there with them. The descriptions of the situation are often muddled, suspect descriptions are either ignored or extremely vague, and other information is untold or dragged out by the dispatcher from the caller. So how do we fix this?
The problem is not the caller but how we cultivate information from them. We assume, wrongly, they understand what it is we need or that any information is good information. Both assumptions are dead wrong. Don't fall into this trap. People don't know what emergency dispatch or law enforcement truly need. They assume you will ask all of the relevant questions from the "fog of war". Luckily, we do - sometimes. So how do we fix it? We start by giving them the format that will deliver the best results for us and get the information from them as quickly as possible so we can notify the appropriate personnel.
A format that I'm very familiar with and I used extensively in the military was called S.A.L.U.T.E.
- Size: How many people do you see? How big is the object? How many gunshots did you hear?
- Activity: What are they doing? Is he shooting at you? What did he say?
- Location: Where are they? Where did they go? Where are you? Where did the vehicle come from? Where did you see that? Where is the object?
- Uniform: What color were his clothes? What kind of clothes was she wearing? What color was the vehicle? What was the make and model?
- Time: When did this happen? When was the last time you heard from him? What time did the letter say the explosion would happen?
- Equipment: What kind of gun did he have? Was the knife serrated? Did you see a rocket launcher? Did you see them carrying anything else?