Do not call 911 unless it is an emergency. Non-emergency calls should be placed on normal telephone numbers which may be found in the telephone book. Calls on these lines are answered at the same location, by the same dispatchers, but they don’t tie up the “special” 9-1-1 lines.
How to call 911 for the best and most expedient response
- Dial 9-1-1 on your phone. It’s a free call. You can use any kind of phone. If you are calling from an office, remember you may have to dial a code (like 8 or 9) to get an outside line, before making your call.
- Stay calm
- In many large cities, 9-1-1 calls are answered by a dispatcher if one is available. However, if all call-takers are busy on other calls, the 9-1-1 call is answered by a call distributor that holds the call, and then automatically routes it to the first available call-taker. Do not hang up if you reach a recording, and try to call back. Stay on the line and your call will be answered in order. If you hang up, your call will be delayed because you will be placed at the end of other callers.
- When the dispatcher answers, simply state what you need; “I need the police”, “I want to report a fire”, “I need an ambulance”. Or, briefly describe the type of incident you are reporting. For example, “I’m reporting an auto fire,” or “I’m reporting an unconscious person,” or “I’m reporting a shoplifter.”
- If your call is answered by a law enforcement agency and you are reporting a fire or medical emergency, the call-taker will transfer your call— stay on the line while the call is transferred.
- The call-taker who answers will need information about the incident.
- Wait for the call-taker to ask questions, then answer clearly and calmly explaining what the emergency is. Do not yell into the phone. If the emergency is so severe that you can only dial 911, but not talk, the Police will respond to the address that the 911 phone call came from without you talking or giving the address, assuming you are not using a cell phone.
- Do not become upset that it is “taking too long”, or that “they are asking too many questions” remember, while one dispatcher is talking to you on the phone, another dispatcher is putting your call out on radio to the emergency personnel.
- Be prepared to follow the dispatchers line of questioning, such as:
A) WHAT is happening, WHERE the situation is occurring, WHEN did the incident occur, WHO is involved, WEAPON involvement, INJURIES, etc.)
B) Be prepared to describe the persons involved in any incident. This includes their race, sex, age, height and weight, color of hair, description of clothing, and presence of a hat, glasses or facial hair.
C) If there is a vehicle involved, be prepared to describe any vehicles involved in the incident. This includes the color, year, make, model and type of vehicle (sedan, pick-up, sport utility, van, tanker truck, flatbed, etc.). If the vehicle is parked the dispatcher will need to know the direction it’s facing. If the vehicle is moving or has left, the dispatcher will need to know the last direction.
D) For reporting a fire tell what is on fire. Give the exact location, if someone is in danger or in the structure, or if there is a danger of explosion from combustibles. Always get out of danger.
- If you are not in a position to give full answers to the call-taker (the suspect is nearby), stay on the phone and the dispatcher will ask you questions that can be answered “yes” or “no.”
- Even though they can probably see your location on the computer screen, they are still required to confirm the information, so do not get upset when they ask you for your location even though they seem to already know it. Make sure to give your name and address loudly and clearly.
- If you are a cellular caller, your telephone number and location will not be displayed for the dispatcher’s reference. You must be able to describe your location so emergency units can respond. Be aware of your current city or town, address, highway and direction, nearby cross-streets or interchanges, or other geographic points of reference. Cellular 9-1-1 calls are frequently routed to a central office that could be many miles from your location so be prepared to give the dispatcher your complete location—city or town, address or location, inside or outside, what floor or room, etc.
- Let the call-taker guide the conversation. Be patient as the dispatcher asks you questions. While you are answering the dispatcher’s questions, he/she is entering or writing down the information. If you are reporting an emergency, most likely a response is being made while you are still on the line with the dispatcher.
- In some cases, the call-taker will give you directions on what to do. Listen carefully, follow each step exactly, and ask for clarification if you don’t understand.
- Secure any dogs or other pets that may interfere with the emergency response. Gather any medications the patient is taking and which the medical crew will need to take with the patient.
- Do not hang up until the dispatcher says it’s OK to do so.If you get disconnected while talking to 911, always try to call back
- Do not nod your head while talking. Instead, answer “yes” or “no” out loud.
- No matter what happens, stay calm.