What To Expect When Calling 911

What happens when I call 911?

When the call-taker answers a 911 call, the phone information pops up on a computer screen (see technology).  While speaking to the caller the call-taker adds information that is received into the computer.  The dispatcher then pulls the call up on his/her screen and dispatches the appropriate personnel. This is happening simultaneously while the call-taker is still speaking with the caller. The call-taker continuously updates information into the computer.  In turn, the dispatcher is able to update the responding personnel with the new information.

Clearer understanding:

We will ask a lot of questions. The calmer you are, the easier it will be to understand what you're saying and we can send the appropriate help quicker. Try to keep in mind that the questions will not delay help, but additional information may be crucial for the situation or for responding personnel.  We understand that you are upset, angry, anxious, or scared. The best thing you can do to help your situation is to try to speak calmly.  When you're calm it helps you to be able to think more clearly, and if necessary to follow directions and help yourself or your loved one until personnel arrives.

We ask  questions for several reasons, ranging from your safety and that of the officers/firefighters and also for investigative purposes. Answer all questions briefly if you can. Keep your answers focused on the question, 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.  

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.

DO NOT hang up - There may be times when we have to put you on hold for a moment.  Know that we do care, trust us to do our very best to help you.  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. Your safety is our number one concern.

911 tips:

  •  Calm down. Speak clearly. Emergency units rely on the information you give to get to you right away
  •  Be prepared to verify the location of  the emergency and your phone number. Many 911 systems display your land line address, but cellular phones do not. The address/location of the emergency is crucial.
  •  Be brief with your answers. Get to the point quickly, this way we will know who (Police, EMS, Firefighter) to send to help you.
  •  Do not hang up
  •  Be prepared to give descriptions and license plate numbers. You may even need to describe yourself and what you're wearing so that the officers can locate you quickly as the caller.
Remember:  The more pertinent information you give us, the safer everyone will be.

911 Hang Ups:
If you accidentally dial 911, please stay on the line to explain that no assistance is needed. If we receive a 911 hang up, we will call the phone number back.  If we are unable to make contact, our policy is to 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. 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.