What are 911 Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs) Operations?

What are 911 Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs) Operations?

Procedures, A Patchwork of Protocols & 911 Professional Discretion

ECCs Defined

Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs), also known as Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) are the entities charged with delivering emergency services in response to calls to 911. Central to an ECC’s role is developing and overseeing the processes of receiving, routing, answering, dispatching, and resolving calls (Transforming911, 2022, p. 11).

The Power of ECCs

ECCs, despite being restricted by the type of agency in which they are housed and their existing governance structures and mandates, have tremendous potential to influence the degree to which callers’ needs are resolved efficiently, equitably, safely, and with minimal justice system involvement (Transforming911, 2022, p. 11).

ECC Operating Procedures & 911 Professionals’ Discretion

ECC operating procedures, together with the discretion afforded 911 call-takers and dispatchers, guide which calls are resolved without the need for a field response, whether police officers are sent to the scene and what they anticipate they will encounter upon arrival, and which calls should be diverted to alternative responders, such as mental health professionals (Transforming911, 2022, p. 12).

The Patchwork of ECC Protocols

While standardized call-taking and triaging protocols exist to ensure that calls to 911 are neither over-triaged (sending a responder when one is not necessary) or under-triaged (underestimating the exigency and risk of the event), they are not used universally by all ECCs. This patchwork of protocols leads to uneven experiences among community members seeking emergency services and renders ECCs without such tools (and the training to accompany them) vulnerable to litigation (Transforming911, 2022, p. 12).

No Best Model for ECC Structure & Operations

However, no research exists on the best model for ECC structure and operations, likely because the specific model for a particular ECC likely depends upon the organization’s specific capacities and authorities, reporting agency, and local context (Transforming911, 2022, p. 12).

Communities Reluctant to Call 911 & Opportunities to Reduce Bias

People residing in Black and brown communities, and those whose identities, mental and behavioral health issues, and/or life circumstances have made them the source of stigma and bias may be distrustful of the government and reluctant to call 911 (Transforming911, 2022, p. 12). As the very first of first responders, 911 call-takers could reduce the odds of stigma and bias with sufficient training and exposure to people of different races, ethnicities, and socio-demographic groups, but the research is insufficient to assert that hypothesis with confidence (Transforming911, 2022, p. 12).


Transforming 911: Assessing the Landscape and Identifying New Areas of Action and Inquiry. (February, 28, 2022). Transform911 | The University of Chicago Health Lab. Report online at https://www.transform911.org/resource-hub/transforming-911-report/