Skip to main content


People don’t call 911 on their best day. They call 911 on what might be the worst day of their life. The faster they can relay their information and know that help is on the way, the better. Inflexible and rigid sets of questions or ”winging it” waste precious seconds when a call taker needs to make informed and life-saving decisions.

In this white paper, we will drill down the ways a flexible, intuitive, and structured system can save lives. We’ll demonstrate that a powerful tool like Total Response can give telecommunicators, directors, and their community the peace of mind in knowing that the person picking up a 911 call is prepared to swiftly help with any call.

Leaders in 911

PowerPhone has spent four decades creating powerfully efficient solutions to help 911 call takers swiftly coordinate responses to help those in need. We are one of the earliest innovators, tracing our roots back to our origins as a dispatcher training company.

A DOT/NHTSA initiative created EMS protocols. With the realization that call taking included more than EMD calls, PowerPhone developed the very first Police and Fire protocols and pre-arrival instructions (PAIs). Police and Fire call handling protocols simply did not exist until PowerPhone created them.

We soon saw that a single, integrated solution was needed, so we combined all three flip card sets to give dispatchers faster access to all emergency protocols.

As computers were adopted into the workplace, we recognized the need to boost the efficiency of dispatchers. Digitizing our protocols and procedures was the next step for PowerPhone. We created Total Response software, enhancing and expanding it to meet the needs of call center telecommunicators and managers.

One Platform for ALL Calls

Total Response is designed with a unified “Any Call” philosophy, which is why we integrate protocols for Police, Fire, and EMS into a single unified application, with a user-friendly interface designed to help call takers swiftly and efficiently handle whatever calls they receive. Our “Any Call” design, not only makes it easier for a telecommunicator to handle incoming calls (without needing to switch from one application to another), but it also streamlines the common scenarios in which a Police call may also require EMS or Fire.

This approach has real-world value:

“I think the number one benefit of PowerPhone’s Total Response is that this single software package allows us to process calls for all disciplines,” says Dan Bellesfield of Lehigh County 911. “Total Response is a one-stop shop. We process the police calls, the fire calls, and the medical calls all from this one piece of software. This allows the staff to do what they need to do without having to think about switching to a different piece of software. That was the most important selection scenario for us—the ability to have that single point of contact to process calls.”

Curtis A. Yasm, 911 Communications Director of La Salle County Sheriff’s Office, Communications Division agrees:

“Our largest city has a population of less than 20,000 so we don’t have specialized 911 centers like some larger areas might have,” Yasm says. “Our TCs need to be able to handle whatever comes in—whether for Police, Fire, or EMS. Total Response allows us to do this because all of the protocols are accessed from the same screen, and load automatically as needed,” Yasm says. “Our TCs do everything. We don't have that luxury of having separate people doing the separate tasks. Total Response allows our TCs to go from one situation to another automatically and instantly. That's a big benefit for us.”

Meeting ALL Standards

As a key supporter of telecommunicators since 1983, PowerPhone has assisted more than 700 agencies with meeting their local, regional, and nationally recognized requirements such as National Fire Protection Association, Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, International Association of Police Chiefs, International Association of Fire Chiefs, Commission on the Accreditation of Ambulance Services, National Emergency Number Association, Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, and more.

Examples of industry standards that PowerPhone helps you meet include:

  • NENA ‘Standard for 911 Call Processing’
  • NENA ‘Standard for 911 Professional Education’
  • NENA ‘Standard Recommended Minimum Training Guidelines for the Telecommunicator’
  • NENA ‘Telecommunicator Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (T-CPR) Standard’
  • AHA guidelines as they pertain to assisting callers through performing high quality T-CPR
  • NFPA 1225, ‘Standard for Emergency Services Communications,’ which is comprised of Standards 1061 and 1221
  • The upcoming 988-911 Standard

PowerPhone regularly participates in these organization workgroups and committees. We reference their standards and related research when creating new content within our software, or when reviewing and updating existing content. The same information is applied when creating and updating our training curriculum.

Note: While various standards exist, there are NO recognized national or international certification or accreditation bodies for 911 call taking. (We wish there were. But there simply aren’t.)

Meet All State and Local Requirements

In addition to national standards, we help organizations meet state and local requirements using our powerful and customizable Total Response software.

PowerPhone stays abreast of all public safety communications industry organizations that play a role. We ensure that the leveraging and enhancement of industry standards, guidelines, and best practices are successful.

Working Closely with the Field

PowerPhone is always working closely with the field to identify ways in which our software can be adapted to meet emerging needs. As the industry evolves, our software adapts to meet the changing needs of PSAPs.

Examples of our ongoing efforts include:

  • Working closely with the industry with our Protocol and Procedure Content Review Committee (PPRC) to organically grow our protocols to meet evolving call center needs.
  • Our Total Response Software Committee continually working with our developers to deploy new features suggested from the field.
  • The PowerPhone Quality Assurance Team continuously operating Total Response software for testing and non-stop in-house monitoring.
  • Content changes to our protocols and procedures suggested and/or vetted by active telecommunicator, medical, law, fire, and mental health professionals, called Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). This ensures our content meets industry standards and best practices and keeps us abreast of trends facing the public safety industry.
  • All PowerPhone Implementation Managers (IMs) have years of direct experience working in a 911 PSAP as front line telecommunicators as well as administrative experiences including roles as shift supervisors, training coordinators, and directors. All IMs also have experience with adopting and utilizing Total Response at their respective agencies.

Dispatch Faster

The integrated questions designed into Total Response can slash the time from call pickup to dispatch. The response to each question automatically updates what the next question should be. This dynamic structured call handling is a vast improvement over other solutions that have static questions that must be followed.

Here’s how one of our customers describes the real-world benefits:

“One of the big things we were looking for when evaluating vendors was the ability to shorten call processing times, and PowerPhone provides that. Total Response has a dispatch indicator, so when a dispatcher gets maybe two questions in, they can send a response while continuing to ask additional questions.”

Donald Smith, Lehigh County (Pennsylvania) Communications/911 Director

Empowering Telecommunicators

We empower telecommunicators to serve as the first first responders. In addition to helping dispatch appropriate responders as quickly as possible, Total Response provides them with information at their fingertips to continue to help a caller while first responders are on their way.

“To help someone provide the appropriate response while waiting for the responder to arrive is a tremendous feeling. We’re giving our dispatchers the ability to potentially save lives. It’s hard to put a value on that.”

Chuck Farr, Deputy Director St. Francois County (Missouri) 911

Total Response includes a library of life-saving instructions that dispatchers can access with a few keystrokes or mouse clicks to guide a panicked caller through providing CPR, evidence after an assault, assist someone who is choking, and give instructions to a caller who is trapped in a structure fire; and a wealth of other resources to help save a life during the precious golden minutes before help arrives on the scene.

“Total Response provides step-by-step questions that adjust according to the answers to help dispatchers guide someone through basic first aid while awaiting the responder. It can guide someone through helping a choking victim, with different guidance for infants, children, and adults. It provides step-by-step guidance for a spectrum of situations."

“I'm in my 22nd year, and I can tell you that sitting in front of the Total Response screen guiding someone through CPR, compared with reading them instructions from a flip card is a night and day difference.”

Chuck Farr, Deputy Director St. Francois County (Missouri) 911

Customizing Protocols

The flexibility of Total Response means we will help craft your protocols to meet your own unique needs. Plus, we give you the ability to tweak your protocols on your own through our Script Manager module, so you can easily modify what dispatchers see on the screen to exactly meet the needs of your organization and the communities you serve and protect.

In Pennsylvania, Lehigh County 911 has made extensive use of the Script Manager in Total Response to precisely tailor protocols to fit the needs of the different communities—and disciplines—it serves. For example, the organization changed the second question in its motor vehicle accident protocol from “Is anyone injured?” to “Is anyone trapped?”

“We leveraged custom configurations very heavily,” said Dan Bellesfield, Director of Operations, Lehigh County 911. “We have unique configurations compared to how other places in the United States handle calls. We worked closely with PowerPhone to create our custom protocols. … We looked at every question-and-answer scenario that we could think of within the protocols and customized as needed.”

Here’s how another customer used Script Manager to customize their protocols:

“In our rural area the nearest trauma center is 45 minutes away,” says Chuck Farr, Deputy Director St. Francois County 911. “We were able to create questions that provided a clearer picture for the dispatcher and the responders of what was needed, including whether to spin up a helicopter for patient transport.”

St. Francois County used Script Manager to also customize Fire protocol questions:

“A lot of our area is very rural, and depending on location, it may take the nearest volunteer fire department 20 to 25 minutes to get there,” Farr says. “This means a small brush fire, depending on the season and the wind, could expand in a matter of minutes. Using Total Response, we customized our scripts so the dispatcher asks the right questions such as: How many acres? What is the wind speed and direction? Are there any structures? Are there propane tanks or other hazardous materials?”

Better Situational Awareness

Call centers benefit from the seamless integration of Total Response with whatever CAD system the organization uses. Total Response automatically transmits information to the CAD, making it quickly available to first responders, providing better situational awareness.

One of our customers described the situational awareness, saying:

“We have some agencies, especially the full-time fire department, which have EMTs. They can better prepare for arrival based on information that’s automatically entered by our dispatchers working with Total Response. For example, they can see: 62-year-old female with a cardiac history, who’s taken three nitros with no relief. Or they might see that a diabetic has a blood sugar of 22. Or maybe it is a chainsaw accident with arterial bleeding.”

Chuck Farr, Deputy Director St. Francois County (Missouri) 911

Flexible Scripts

Quite frequently in an emergency situation where someone’s screaming for help, the last thing they want to be greeted with is being inundated with questions that don’t apply to their scenario. One of our customers, who evaluated different products before choosing Total Response, said:

“Other solutions didn’t provide the ability to skip irrelevant questions,” says Donald Smith, Lehigh County Communications/911 Director. “If there were questions A through F, you had to go sequentially through all of those questions, which can be frustrating for the caller and the dispatcher. With Total Response, a dispatcher can immediately go from question A to Question D and later circle back, if needed, to the earlier ones. Every 911 call is different, so giving our dispatchers flexibility was critical for us. We don’t want our dispatchers turned into robots. We want to give the flexibility to think on their own.”

Unlimited Online Training

For decades, PowerPhone’s training courses have proudly set the industry standard for preparing emergency call handlers to respond to 911 calls. We have trained over 500,000 professionals worldwide.

With the introduction of Site Licensed Training, we continue to reimagine our product offering so that it matches the changing needs of PSAPs of every size. This online learning portfolio includes Total Response application training, certification courses and a wealth of continuing education courses. With the online, self-paced approach, agencies save money and time by eliminating travel and the need for an outside instructor. Scheduling training has never been easier since courses can be started whenever it fits your schedule. Our customers have also found that having access to online courses 24/7 helps keep employees motivated and focused during periods of downtime between calls.

Site Licensed Training is your single solution for training current and future hires by providing unlimited access to our training library as part of your yearly service plan. We simplified access and budgeting for all your training and certification needs.

PowerPhone is an emergency call handling software company. Our Total Response solution helps 911 centers ask better questions of callers and relay scene information faster and more accurately to responders. Pre-arrival instructions ensure a zero-minute response time to deliver actionable advice, enhance scene safety and minimize liability exposure. To see Total Response in action, schedule a meeting today.