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911 Command Center

Introduction

The City of Bethlehem operates its Communication Center at 10 E. Church Street in a secure area of the Police Department, with an emergency back-up center located in a separate facility one mile away. The center has state-of-the-art Enhanced 9-1-1 equipment, including seven call answering stations and consoles, telephone equipment, voice activated recorders and a radio system with multiple radio channels.

Each year, the Communication Center handles approximately 200,000 calls with approximately 50,000 of those calls coming from 9-1-1.

The City of Bethlehem 9-1-1 Center is the primary Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) within the geographic boundaries of the City of Bethlehem. All landline 911 calls within Bethlehem are sent to the Bethlehem PSAP. Cellphone calls within Bethlehem are pinpointed by the location of the cellular communications tower and routed directly to the Bethlehem PSAP. Calls originating at the edges of our jurisdiction may be routed to the Bethlehem, Northampton County or the Lehigh County PSAP. When the exact location of the incident is determined, the call is then routed to the appropriate PSAP for dispatch.

The Bethlehem PSAP is an Enhanced 911 center. Caller location and identity is provided by the enhanced 911 system to allow first responders to provide emergency service in the fastest and most efficient manner. The Bethlehem PSAP is TTY capable for hearing impaired callers. The center also employes multi-lingual dispatchers and subscribes to an interpreter service for non-English speaking customers.

When to call 911

Call 911 to report police, medical or fire emergencies. Your calls will be immediately processed and dispatched without the need for call transfers or secondary communications. The Communications Specialists will take your information and determine the need for emergency services. Specialists within the same room will contact the appropriate agncy via radio and maintain communications throughout an emergency.

Non-Emergency Services

Specialists within the The Bethlehem PSAP also handles non-emergency calls for service and calls for the reporting of past crimes and incidents 24-hours a day. Callers should dial 610.865.7187 to report non-emergency situations.

How 911 Works

Calls received in the Bethlehem 911 Center are first handled by a Communications Specialist. They are trained to verbally verify the nature of the situation, the caller’s identity and the location of the incident. The nature of the call will determine whether it will require the dispatch of police, fire or EMS personnel.

While taking your emergency call, the information will be entered into a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. Once in the system, the call is available for dispatch, but the call-taker will continue to ask clarifying questions that will assist in the response. In an emergency, please do not assume that these questions are delaying our emergency response. In the case of crimes in progress, many times police units are dispatched within seconds of the call being received. It is important to stay on the phone with the call-taker to give as much information as possible to aid us in our response.

History

The City of Bethlehem has traditionally dispatched its own emergency services, such as police, fire, and EMS. In 1934, the City of Bethlehem had the state’s very first radio communications system that could broadcast between a Communications Center and a patrol vehicle. Before the technological advances that led to the use of “portable police radios” in 1965, officers who walked the beat had to rely on their police whistle to notify other beat officers of a problem and were required to make regular “check-ins” to headquarters by utilizing phones at local businesses along their beat. A single dispatch center was established in 1972, where until 1989, emergency calls to the City’s dispatch center were filed by hand utilizing a seven-digit numbering system. During April 1988, the City Administration began planning and working towards instituting the computer aided dispatch and 9-1-1 emergency telephone services within the City. City representatives met with representatives from Bell of Pennsylvania and, in 1989, 9-1-1 service supplying Automatic Number Identification (ANI) went online. The completion of the system was accomplished during January 1991, when the Automatic Location Identification (ALI) portion was initiated. Currently, the enhanced 9-1-1 service providers are working on improving the ALI system to include automatic identification and location of 9-1-1 cell phone calls.

The City’s current 9-1-1 Command Center is a state of the art facility that was completely upgraded in 2012. In 2009, the City completed a digital radio system upgrade which greatly enhanced our radio communications throughout Bethlehem.

If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact the Bethlehem Police Director of 9-1-1, Robert Haffner at RHaffner@bethlehem-pa.gov.

 
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