West Chester resident Emily Pisano is kindly contributing her observations on the content of Neighborhood University, a good background for all interested in civic life. And as anyone reading this knows, “government is us!” According to its web site,
“Neighborhood University of Greater West Chester is a free program offered by the West Chester Area Council of Governments (see WCACOG map) to educate citizens about local government and increase awareness of available municipal services and resources. Our goal is to help citizens become more effective advocates for their community, which in turn helps local municipalities keep finding ways to improve.”
Neighborhood University – Public Safety
by Emily Pisano
Ever hear of Neighborhood University? Don’t feel bad if you’re shaking your head. Although the program is in its fifth year, I didn’t know of it until I saw a tweet from West Chester Borough regarding its 2017 session. The program teaches residents of the West Chester area about their local government and government programs and informs residents about how decisions are made in their community.
Neighborhood University runs every Thursday night for ten weeks and each class lasts about two hours. It’s an easy and interesting way to learn something about your home, meet people in your area, and get involved. Sometimes, the instructor even provides snacks and there are no tests to stress about. Your only objective is to listen and learn.
This past Thursday was our second class and the topic was public safety. Riding the elevator down to the very gray colorless basement of the Government Services Building, I was feeling pretty excited. Call me a nerd, but having graduated from college three years ago, I’ve really missed that back-to-school feeling.
Anyway, the instructor for the night was John Haynes, Deputy Director of the 9-1-1 Center. A kind man dressed head to toe in taupe, his passion for his career and his love for local government and helping people are heartwarming. If you want to see your tax dollars at work (don’t we all?), see if you can meet with John.
Under John’s leadership, the 9-1-1 Center of Chester County has become one of the top 9-1-1 centers in the country. Receiving roughly 300,000 calls each year, the men and women who work as dispatchers have one of the most stressful jobs you could possibly imagine. Those who make it through the rigorous training process have proven they can remain calm and even-keeled while helping people through what is probably the most traumatic moment of their life. The service these dispatchers provide is truly commendable.
Equally extraordinary are the programs they use to help people in crisis. When you call 9-1-1 from your cellphone, the dispatcher can instantly see where you are calling from even when the GPS on your phone is turned off. The text-to-9-1-1 capability has been a source of comfort to the deaf and hard of hearing. In cases of domestic abuse and situations where a child is in a vehicle with an impaired parent, the text-to-9-1-1 option has saved lives. Programs and features such as these provide efficient, fair and quality service to all people of Chester County. Our 9-1-1 center even has the ability to communicate with people in over 200 languages, ensuring no one is denied the right of receiving help in an emergency situation.
For those of us lucky enough to call Chester County home, access to emergency help is a guarantee for all, just as healthcare should be. That being said, do not forget to call your Senators and Congressional Representative and urge them to say no to Graham-Cassidy and any similar healthcare-reducing bills!
Stay tuned for next week’s post, the topic will be storm water management and our local environment. Important stuff!