(WKBN) – On this week’s In-Depth segment, WKBN Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford sits down with Mahoning County 911 Director Maggie McGee. They discuss the function of the 911 center.

“911 is for all the citizens in Mahoning County, for them to call for any kind of needs that they have for safety… We’re there to be their answering point, to make sure that they get the kind of response and public safety that they need and to be sure that all calls do not go unanswered and that every call goes through,” McGee said.

She describes the important difference between calling 911 and 211.

“We had flooding, very bad flooding there for a while. 211 was able to take those calls and take information down from people that wasn’t life-threatening. 911 should only be used in a life-threatening situation because that’s what we’re sending out. We’re sending out the law, the law enforcement. We’re sending out the fire, we’re sending out ambulances, we’re sending out Hazmat. So we’re sending out the responses that we need to protect our citizens. So for the 211, they do need protection. Their flooding is important to us, but the dispatchers for 911 can’t take down that kind of information. They’re very patient, but it’s much easier if somebody else could take down that data, it’s more of a data thing. Ours is more of a quick response,” McGee said.

The 911 center can be used in the event of a disaster or tragedy, like the East Palestine train derailment, a major crash or a gas line explosion. Any life-threatening situations are the responsibility of the 911 center.

McGee explains who is in charge at the 911 center when an emergency is taking place.

“If… we have a pile-up of crashes, we’re probably going to immediately start sending law enforcement. But usually, if it’s a fire, if there’s lives at stake, for example, even with the derailment, you had the fire, the fire is the first responders and we have an incident commander and they will be in charge. What they do is, we take instructions from that individual to know what to do and what needs to be done. Law enforcement is also on the scene… You have multiple people taking instructions from everyone just to be sure because sometimes, let’s say there’s a fire, the incident commander or the fire chief may need law enforcement to just watch traffic, just to make sure there’s traffic so it doesn’t get in the way of the incident,” she said.

At the 911 center, dispatchers keep in touch with the various emergency agencies that are at the scene.

“We will direct any radio traffic or any specific traffic to specific channels and have people that are… that is all that they’re going to do. They are just going to handle that incident because there’s so much going on down there that we don’t want to miss anything. While in the meantime, we have other people that dispatchers are taking other calls because our lives still go on. So they basically put them on different radio channels and also can communicate specifically with those dispatchers so that they can ensure that they are getting the information they need,” McGee said.

There is a lot of information sharing going on, and regardless of where an incident is, every dispatcher needs to be trained the same way so they know how to relay any necessary information.

Join McGee and Crawford on Friday on First News at 5 as they continue their conversation about the purpose of the 911 center.