When there is an emergency, who should you call? If you are in the United States or Canada, all you have to do is dial 911.
Dialing this number from any telephone will immediately link the person to an emergency dispatch center—called Public Safety Answering Point by the telecom industry—which can send emergency responders to the caller’s location in an emergency.
Davao City is one of the two cities in the Philippines (the other one is Kidapawan) which use 911 as the number to be dialed in case of emergency. Called Central Communications and Emergency Response Center (Central 911), it has already received more than half a million distress calls since its inception in 2002.
The Central 911 was officially launched in September 2002 “to address emergency calls for criminal incidents needing police assistance,” according to a document obtained by this author. But as years went by, it has done more than that. Today, it now has the capability to respond to almost any type of emergency.
“Aside from police services, it also caters to emergency medical services, urban search and rescue operations, fire auxiliary services, and K-9 units,” the document said. “The presence and the availability of a response mechanism resulted to increased awareness among the constituents and visitors of Davao City to report crime and emergency incidents, which serves to mitigate or avoid further aggravating the situations and minimize the loss of lives and properties.”
The Central 911 is reportedly manned by 24 call takers and 16 dispatchers/trackers who are working “round-the-clock.” “By dialing 911, residents needing assistance can immediately summon responders to the scene of emergency,” the document said, adding that it has simplified the emergency process by integrating all the government’s emergency response resources (ambulance, rescue technicians, firefighters, K-9, and the police) into one.
“As a doctor I take high pride of Davao’s 911,” said Dr. Richard Mata, a Davao physician. “In medical care, time is gold.” With Central 911 in place, he said Dabawenyos has the following:
n Immediate advice by phone during a phone call. People who are assisting a sudden health crisis like heart attack, drowning or collapse, among others, are in a panic; having someone to call and can give proper advice on what to do while waiting for the rescue is very vital.
n Immediate oxygen and intravenous hydration administration has proven to save lives in first world countries. Not to mention other emergency medicines that could be given while on transit to a hospital.
n The emergency siren of 911 vehicles allows faster time to reach a hospital. Safety in travel is also given because the drivers are experts and emotionally unattached.
n Proper coordination with the waiting hospital can be done. The other end can now prepare the needed doctors, nurses and equipment prior to the arrival depending on the case so there will be no lapse of time that may endanger the patient.
According to the document, the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) unit of Central 911 is manned by 106 emergency medical technicians and 33 ambulance operators who are working on a 24-hour shift schedule.
From 2011 to 2014, the EMS has a total runs of 38,032 with 39,643 patients being helped. In 2013 the EMS responded to 176 fire incidents aside from acting as medical back-up in two rescue-related calls.
The Central 911 even goes beyond Davao City. In 2013, some members of the team went to Tacloban City to help those who became victims of the supertyphoon Yolanda (international coden name, Haiayan). Mary Jane Galan, a public-school teacher, recalled a day after the typhoon devastated the place:
“There was no food, no water, and no shelter. My child Ashley and I were at the Tacloban City Hall hoping that a good Samaritan will come along and give us even a bottle of drinking water or milk for Ashley. I saw people running. Someone alarmed, there was a jail break. We heard gunshots. Soldiers were running and one of them grabbed my daughter for safety. It was another nightmare for my daughter.
“Fortunately, the first contingent to help the Taclobanons was the Central 911 from Davao City. I searched for their camp and when I finally located them, I introduced myself. Even before asking our situation, they were kind enough to feed my daughter and me first. I asked them if they could help me and my daughter Ashley to go bring to Davao.”
But what Central 911 has accomplished goes beyond helping the people. In 2012 Davao City was ranked as the world’s fourth safest city. For seven years, Davao City was considered as the most peaceful city in East and Southeast Asia.
In a study, 93.75 percent of the respondent said that it is safe to walk alone during daylight in the city, while 76.69 percent said that even during the night it is safe to walk alone.
Davao City, with a land area of 224,000 hectares (approximately 7.8 times the size of Cebu and three times that of the entire Metro Manila), has a very low crime rate. Another document obtained by this author said: “A great land mass cannot be considered as a hindrance to secure the city’s perimeter and give the 1.8 million Dabawenyos their security. The stability of peace and order in the city is manifested in the downward trend of the average monthly crime rate in every 100,000 persons.”
According to the Investigation and Detective Management Branch of the Davao City Police Office, the average monthly rate in every 100,000 persons was 60.46 in 2009, 57.94 in 2010, 45.67 in 2011, 47.34 in 2012, and 50.03 in 2013.
The document traced the low crime rate in Davao City to “the increased visibility of the police through the highly reliable 24/7 operations of the city’s Central 911.” It contends that Central 911 “has put into concrete actions the city government’s strong commitment to minimize, if not totally suppress, all forms of criminalities.”
Like other cities in the Philippines, Davao City is not spared from the threats of calamities, criminal activities and terrorism. “Serious accidents happen every so often and natural calamities strike everywhere leaving a trail of destruction on its path,” the document said. “The growing specter of crimes and terrorism is a global phenomenon, which potentially changes the lifestyle and landscape of countries and cities.”
As such, the city government “has placed a heavy emphasis on calamity preparedness and increased the notch in emergency response and crime prevention through the establishment of Central 911.”
Indeed, Davao City has gone a long, long way. Thanks to Central 911 which is fully supported by Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte. In his first State of the City Address on January 28, 1990, he said: “During the first and second year of our administration, we laid down the foundation, which is vital for growth and development, and I refer to our continuing effort to further improve and maintain peace and order in our city.”