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How to Call 911

What happens when I call 911?

   When a call-taker receives a 911 call and answers it, the phone information pops up on a computer screen (see technology).  The call-taker puts the call into the computer while speaking with you.  The dispatcher pulls the call up on his/her screen and dispatches the appropriate personnel, even while the call-taker is still speaking with you.  The call-taker continuously adds additional information to the call in the computer.  In turn, the dispatcher continuously pulls up the additional information and updates responding personnel.


What to expect when you call 911

   We understand that you are upset, angry, anxious, or scared.  But the best thing you can do to help your situation is to try to remain calm.  The calmer you are, the more we can understand what you’re saying and send the appropriate help quicker.  Staying calm will also help you to be able to think more clearly, and if necessary to help yourself or your loved one until personnel arrives. 


   We will ask you a lot of questions.  Try to keep in mind that asking those questions will not delay help.  The help has already been dispatched, but additional information may be crucial for your situation or for responding personnel.  You may not understand why we ask certain questions, or it may seem trivial to you, but we ask for several reasons, ranging from your safety and that of the officers/firefighters down to investigative purposes.


   Answer all questions.  Keep your answers focused on the question (keep it as brief as you can), if we need you to expand on your answer, we’ll ask.  DO NOT make up answers – if you really don’t know, then tell us that.  Also, do not withhold information – if you know who a suspect is but you don’t want to say, you could be seriously jeopardizing the safety of an officer.


   There may be times when we have to put you on hold for a moment – DO NOT hang up.  If you can’t stay on the phone, then put it down without hanging up if you’re able to do so safely.  That way we can still hear what’s going on.  Know that we do care, trust us to do our very best to help you.  Your safety is our number one concern.


Here are some tips for calling 911. Reading these now may help you when an actual emergency occurs.

  •  Remain calm
  •  Be prepared to verify phone number and location
  •  Be brief · Answer all questions
  •  Do not hang up
  •  Be prepared to give descriptions and license numbers

Remember: Answering questions does NOT delay the dispatch of assistance. A dispatcher is sending help your way while the Call Taker takes additional information from you. The more pertinent information you give us, the safer everyone will be.

About 911 hang-ups: Our policy is to respond to ALL 911 hang up calls if we do not receive an answer on a call back or get a response indicating a problem. If you change your mind about needing assistance, stay on the line and explain that to the 911 Call Taker. Otherwise, an officer will be dispatched to your location to ensure that you are safe. Playing on the phone puts those who do need immediate help in danger and puts you in danger of being prosecuted for making a false report.


  1. Stay calm. Speak clearly. Emergency units (police, fire or ambulance) rely on the information you give to get to you as soon as possible and to be able to help you.
  2. Give your address and phone number. Many 911 systems automatically display your address, but most cellular phones do not. Your address is vital information. We cannot help you if we don’t know where you are.
  3. Quickly and briefly describe your problem. As soon as we know what you need, we will know who (police car, ambulance, fire truck) to send to help you. Get to the point as soon as possible.
  4. Describe yourself. Tell the 911 Call Taker where you are and what you look like, including what you are wearing. We want officers who are arriving on the scene to know who they can contact and that you are not the suspect.
  5. Listen to the 911 Call Taker. Answer their questions and follow any instructions. Remain on the line until the 911 Call Taker says it is okay for you to hang up.

911 hang ups

   If you accidentally dial 911, please stay on the line and let us know that.  If we receive a 911 hang up, we will call the phone number back.  If we are unable to make contact, we will send officers.  If we make contact with you and you say everything is fine, that’s usually the end of it.  However, on occasion we may still send officers to do a welfare check on you.