Transform911 Site Glossary
This glossary describes terms and categories used across the Transform911 website. These are not comprehensive definitions, but indicate how we are using each term in our work, particularly in materials found on the Resource Hub. Please contact us if you see a term on the site that’s missing here, or if you would like to suggest an edit.
The Transform911 team has identified eight topics that contain key areas for transformation. These topics correspond to Transform911’s workgroups (with the exception of 911 History, which is a special project rather than a workgroup), as well as the categorization we’ve used across all the materials on our Resource Hub.
1. 911 History
The 911 system, while helpful and even life-saving for countless people across the country, is historically rooted in racially disparate policing and inequitable practices. This topic traces the impact of the history of 911 and policing on communities today, using the stories and firsthand experiences of community members – a people’s history of 911.
2. 911 Hotline Alternatives
911 is the national emergency number for the US, but there are other numbers to call (and text) for different kinds of help. These “hotlines” include medical, social-service, civic, and community alternatives to calling 911 for assistance, including 311, 211, 988, and a variety of mental health and crisis hotlines. This topic synthesizes information on the prevalence, use, strengths, limitations, and legislation of these alternative numbers.
3. Alternative First Responders
911 first responders generally include police, Emergency Medical Service (EMS), and firefighters. Are there other responders who would be best suited to respond to particular calls for service? This topic reviews pilot programs and initiatives testing the use of medical, behavioral health, social-service, and community responders as alternatives, particularly to police response. Mental health and substance use calls are perhaps most often mentioned in this area, but other situations that may benefit from alternative response include animal control, domestic violence, traffic violations, and noise complaints.
4. ECC (Emergency Communications Center) Operations
ECCs are the local hubs where 911 professionals take and triage calls and coordinate responses. This topic encompasses the entire process of 911 call-taking and dispatch, including incoming calls, call-taking scripts, computer aided dispatch (CAD) call coding, and deployment of responders. Areas of investigation include call-taking and dispatch policies and procedures, quality assurance, data collection, and standards and criteria for ensuring the right response.
5. Data, Research, and Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
The lack of standardization across ECCs means that centralized, standardized data on 911 can be hard to find. This topic examines the availability, quality, and harmonization of data on 911 calls, responses, and outcomes; research and evidence-based practices related to 911; and the key performance indicators that are (or could be) used to define and measure success and failure within emergency response.
ECCs fall under many different types of authorities, including county and municipal governments, police jurisdictions, and for-profit companies contracted by a municipality. States also have varying laws and regulations around emergency response. This topic accounts for all these governance structures from the PSAP level to the national level, describing where accountability lies; who sets and manages the budget; how decisions are made; and what processes are in place for oversight, standards, and quality control.
7. 911 Professional Career and Supports
911 professionals, including 911 call-takers and dispatchers, are the public’s first point of contact with the 911 system. However, they are often under-resourced and poorly supported within the emergency response and policing hierarchy. This topic focuses on supporting 911 professionals with training, coping tools to avoid burnout, and other supports, as well as professionalizing their job title and position to accurately reflect its critical status. 911 professionals are federally classified as “administrative support staff,” which understates their crucial role in emergency response. Legislation has previously been introduced to reclassify 911 professionals under “protective service occupations” along with firefighters, police, and other public safety personnel.
911 systems rely on a network of technology, ranging from callers’ mobile phones to VoIP and phone lines to computer-aided-dispatch systems. This topic covers how technology impacts 911’s ability and capacity to ensure that callers’ needs are appropriately identified and met. This includes exploring how existing infrastructure and technology can be leveraged to deliver good outcomes; exploring new and innovative technologies in the 911 and alternative hotline realm; examining how technology can enhance data collection, coding, data analytics, and performance metrics; identifying what improvements in technology infrastructure and resources are needed to improve accessibility and outcomes; and assessing 911 tech capabilities, funding, and implementation and infrastructure needs.
988, 211, and 311: Implementation and usage guidelines for these alternative 3-digit help numbers and other emergency hotlines or text lines.
Accessibility: Texting, chatbots, NG911, translation services, and other technologies that make 911 more widely accessible.
Mental Health and Substance Use: Initiatives, policies, and practices related to 911 calls involving mental health (including suicide attempts) and/or substance use.
Budget: Funding and budgets for policing, 911, emergency response, and community-based services, presented from both activist and governance perspectives. This information includes economic analyses and metrics to assess response systems.
Calls for service: Calls to 911 from community members.
Call-taker procedures: 911 call data integration, call-taking scripts and protocols, and other policies and procedures related to answering 911 calls and disseminating the relevant information.
Call-taker support: 911 call-taker and dispatcher health, burnout, and stress; relationships between dispatchers and police; training, compensation, and minimum requirements for certification; licensing and credentialing for call-takers and dispatchers.
Call volume: Predicting 911 call volumes; trends and patterns of calls within districts.
Caller behavior/protocol: Risk assessments of 911 callers; analysis of who does and does not call 911, 911 misdials and hang-ups; use cases for 911 vs. other numbers.
Civilian Response Team: Mental health and substance use crisis response teams; mobile crisis intervention; community resources for conflict resolution and crisis response; peer-support specialists; alternatives to police response; public health strategies; 911 deflection and diversion to unarmed personnel.
Co-responder program: Programs incorporating social workers, mental health and substance use professionals, and other personnel into emergency response along with Crisis Intervention Team (CIT)-trained police officers.
Community collaboration: Community working together with police and other government agencies to resolve conflict, respond to crisis, and develop grassroots public safety initiatives; voting and referenda about policing; and municipal and non-profit strategies for diverting emergencies from the police.
Data: Collecting, coding, merging, de-identifying and analyzing call, dispatch and response data; evidence-based strategies for transformation; public opinion surveys about 911/policing/public safety; metrics and strategies for evaluating program performance.
Health care continuum: Integrating emergency medicine with ongoing health care; diversion for drug arrests; law enforcement provided transportation to health facilities; appropriate linkage to health care in response to mental health and substance use crisis calls.
Adequate police staffing: Challenges to recruitment and retention of police department personnel.
Low-level crimes: Misdemeanors, petty crimes, and crimes of survival; arrest diversion programs related to these.
On-scene response: Policies, practices, and analyses related to 911 crisis response tactics by police, EMS, fire, and alternative responders who are dispatched to the scene of a crisis.
Police reform: Activist, policymaker, and practitioner conversations around divesting/diverting/deflecting from the police; philosophies and principles of policing and/or public safety; police accountability, misconduct and culture; evidence-based reform strategies; history of police reform.
Policy recommendations: Legislator- and policymaker-oriented recommendations for change.
Public opinion: Surveys and polls of public opinions on policing, 911, public safety, and related topics.
Reducing police response: Policies, programs, and analyses centered around increasing the proportion of calls for which the optimal response does not require police that are funneled elsewhere. Includes police reform and alternatives to police.
Unhoused population: Supports, shelters, and services for people and families who are unhoused; decriminalizing homelessness.
Use of force: police officer use of physical means to compel compliance, including officer-involved shooting, taser use and use of restraints.