Rural and tribal 911 centers face special challenges. They typically serve areas that are large geographically but less-densely populated than urban areas. Because it may take first responders longer to reach the scene of an emergency, call-takers in public safety answering points (PSAPs) serving rural areas may be required to stay on the phone longer with callers or provide more extensive emergency instruction to callers until help arrives. And in medical emergencies, hospitals are often farther away which results in extended transport times, making the ambulance unavailable for other calls in its response area – in areas that may have very limited coverage to begin with. The limited responder resources typical of rural areas can be more quickly overwhelmed in disasters or large-scale incidents.
Rural agencies may lack the resources needed for technology upgrades, equipment and training. But supporting rural PSAPs is vitally important, particularly because it may take longer for help to arrive in rural areas, and the call-taker may make an even bigger difference in the outcome of an emergency situation.