The Visalia Police Department’s Communications Unit proudly serves the city of Visalia with the highest degree of professionalism. The unit is currently housed at the Visalia Emergency Communications Center (VECC), located at 420 N. Burke St., and is responsible for the receipt, disposition and documentation of telephone/radio calls in both routine and emergency matters for the police and fire departments. The unit is also responsible for handling all 911 and animal control calls generated within the city of Visalia. Additionally, technological advances over the next year will allow the center to receive text messages to 911, which will enhance the public’s ability to request emergency assistance and our ability to meet that need.
The Communications Unit consists of one communications supervisor, 27 full-time communications operators and one hourly call taker who answer and process seven emergency 911 lines, 15 non-emergency lines and several radio frequencies. The unit operates 24 hours each day, 365 days a year.
In 2017, the unit handled 153,701 calls for service. Of those, 130,931 were police calls for service, 15,650 were fire calls for service and 7,120 were animal control-related calls. Additionally, a total of 79,652 911 calls were also received.
With an average of 218 emergency calls per day (421 total calls per day), there’s no doubt that our communications operators are busy, so the proper use of 911 is essential, yet many still question when to dial 911 or they utilize 911 improperly for informational requests (status of people under arrest, impounded vehicle questions, ordinance or law questions, and/or request to speak with a specific officer).
For the purpose of utilizing 911, an emergency is defined as an immediate threat to life, health or property. Examples of when to dial 911 include reporting any emergency situation that requires a police officer at the scene (e.g., assaults, traffic accidents, etc.); summoning an ambulance for medical assistance; reporting fire, smoke or a fire alarm; reporting a crime in progress, and/or reporting suspicious or criminal activity (shouts for help, glass breaking, suspicious person making entry into property, etc.). When connected with a 911 communications operator, callers are asked to stay calm and answer as many questions as possible. Depending on your situation, questions such as what is your location, is anyone injured, were any weapons seen, can you provide a description, etc., will be asked. These questions do not slow the response of emergency personnel, and provide relevant information that is added to your request for service and are passed on to responding emergency personnel.
Many 911 calls received are accidental, especially from cell phones. If this happens, DO NOT hang up. Communications operators are required to call back every 911 “hang-up” that is received to determine if, in fact, there is an emergency. If no one answers and there is an address associated with the telephone number, a police officer must be sent to determine if there is an emergency at that location. Also, it is important to know that when dialing 911 from your cell phone, no address information is automatically provided to the communications operator so be sure to provide your location when dialing 911 from your cell phone.
For informational requests such as asking for information regarding the status of a report or investigation, requesting to speak with an officer, inquiring on the arrest of an individual, etc., please contact the Visalia Police Department’s non-emergency telephone number, (559) 734-8116, and your call will be routed appropriately. Using the non-emergency line for these types of inquiries ensures that 911 lines are available for true emergencies and allows our operators and first responders to respond as efficiently as possible.
As always, the Visalia Police Department is proud to serve this great community. Thank you and stay safe!