What does it mean when we receive a report "third hand?" That means that either the person directly involved in the incident, or someone in the immediate area of the incident, has contacted a third party (usually a family member) to call 911. This person will have limited details about the incident (sometimes that means they won't even have a location!) and cannot provide any sort of patient care, because they aren't on scene.
Over the last week, this has become a prominent trend in our dispatch center. While we completely understand wanting to contact a loved one during a time of crisis, we can't stress enough how important it is to call 911 direct. When you contact a third party, response time is delayed and many times critical information is lost. If YOU are the third party that's been contacted, PLEASE urge the person calling you to hang up and dial 911 direct.
Our primary goal is to send help exactly where it's needed, and provide pre-arrival instructions if necessary. The most efficient way to do this is to speak to a person who is on scene.
Here's an example of what we mean (and this is all hypothetical). A teen driver has an accident. The teen is injured and so is their friend. They were on their way from Salina to Wichita, they have no idea where they wrecked and the car landed far down in the ditch.
If the teen calls 911 direct, we can get GPS coordinates off the phone, ask them about injuries, and provide instructions for controlling bleeding, starting CPR, etc. We can get a vehicle description, find out what side of the road they're on, how many vehicles were involved, are they able to get out of the vehicle or will we have to extricate them, etc etc etc.
If the teen calls mom, and mom calls 911,we now have to send units the most probable route of travel and attempt to find the vehicle. We usually have no idea about injuries or entrapment. Mom is usually so distraught, we have a hard time getting information (understandably so). And we can't give any patient care instructions, because there's no one on scene to assist the patients. We will always try to get a phone number of the person on scene, but they may or may not answer the phone.
So... you can see why we always prefer to speak to a person involved or on scene. It just streamlines the process and makes everything easier!