Do not assume that the 9-1-1 center will know where you are calling from. Not all emergency dispatch centers are equipped to automatically detect your location based on your phone number: know the location of your emergency!
WHAT WILL THE DISPATCHER ASK WHEN I DIAL 911?
All callers are asked a standard set of questions which will help the dispatcher prioritize your call and will provide the responding personnel with information before their arrival. The following are just some of the questions that you may be asked:
Location of the problem:
Where are you and where did the incident happen ?
This is important in case the phone is disconnected for some reason. Even though the 9-1-1 screen should have the phone number and address of the phone you are calling from, the dispatcher will ask you the address where the problem is, as well as where you are calling from to verify the information on the 9-1-1 screen. You may be calling from an address other than the one where the problem is. It is important to give any building names, building numbers, apartment or condominium names and unit or suite number. Be as specific as possible. Avoid using “left” and “right” as directions. This is often confusing. Instead use a direction such as “North” or “South”. The best locations are specific street address or cross streets.
Nature of the problem:
Please use real language – don’t try to use lingo or slang, it will only confuse the situation. Just tell us briefly what is happening or what happened.
a. Is anyone injured?
b. Basic description of what occurred.
When did this occur? 5 minutes ago, 5 days ago, last year, has it been going on over a span of time (hours, days, or weeks).
How many people are involved?
Race, sex, height, weight, clothing, hair color, facial hair, eyeglasses, hat, etc.
Please give descriptions from the top to bottom, outside to inside…
An example of “Top to Bottom” is hat, hair, facial hair? Shirt, coat, pants, shoes – top of the person to the bottom
An example of “Outside to inside”is coat is on the outside, shirt is on the inside, T-shirt inside that – outer clothing first the to the detailed less visible clothing.
Did the person have a weapon?
If so what kind? Gun? What kind, handgun or long gun? Knife? What kind, pocket knife or butcher knife? Bludgeoning tool such as ball bat, frying pan, rock?
Was the person carrying anything?
Where did the person go?
Color, make, model, tag number and number of doors ? Direction of travel ? Any distinquishing characteristics such as dents, primer, items hanging from rear view mirror, bumper stickers, window stickers, damage etc.? Number of people in the vehicle? Approximate ages and sex?
When calling 911, all you have to do is answer the dispatcher’s questions! Stay on the phone and answer the questions as calmly as you can. Sometimes it may sound as if the dispatcher is repeating themselves with the same questions but you may give more detail the second time. There may have been something you’ve forgotten earlier. Please don’t become irritated with them, they are trying to obtain important information and to assist you. We know anxiety is a terrible emotion, but try to remain calm when giving information.
Do not hang up until either the 911 Dispatcher or the on scene Police or Fire personnel direct you to.
WHEN GIVING INFORMATION, DON’T EDIT OR EXAGGERATE!
Give all the information that you have. For Example: If you don’t mention that the suspect was wearing a red hat because you don’t think it was important, you may be withholding the single most important identifier in apprehending the suspect.
Emergency response will not be delayed by answering the above questions. In most instances, assistance will be dispatched while you are still on the phone. By answering the dispatcher’s questions, the dispatcher can relay important information to the units responding prior to their arrival. This increases the chances of a successful outcome to the call!
WHAT ABOUT DIALING 9-1-1 IN A MAJOR DISASTER?
There may be a delay in receiving a dial tone. Don’t flick the phone hook switch button (click button up and down), since each time it is depressed, your call reverts to the “end of the line” to receive the dial tone, resulting in further delay!
Wait at least one to one and a half minutes for a dial tone. It could take that long or even 5-6 minutes in a major disaster, because of the number of calls being made.
Please tune in the emergency broadcast station of your radio for information and updates rather than to call the police or fire departments. DO NOT CALL radio stations for updates; the less the phone lines are used, the more service there will be for emergency help.
In some instances, the dial tone will be eliminated from residential phones and phones that are not on “essential service”. In these instances, ALL PAY PHONES will be operable, with a dial tone.
There is no way to tell, in advance, if the 9-1-1 screens in the dispatch center will be functioning correctly in a major emergency, so be prepared to give the dispatcher all information.
During a disaster, electricity usually fails. Do not call 911 to find out when the power will go back on. We have a list of numbers to call for power outages.
WHAT IF I DIAL 911 BY MISTAKE?
DO NOT HANG UP!
Before you hang up, be sure to tell the dispatcher that you have dialed 9-1-1 by mistake, and that you do not need emergency help! This is particularly important if you dial from a business phone with several phone lines. Anytime the police dispatcher receives a 9-1-1 “hang-up”; the caller must be contacted to be sure that no actual emergency exists. If your business has dozens or even hundreds of phone lines, it may be impossible for the dispatcher to determine who, if anyone needs help, and an officer must then be dispatched to the address.