There are several things to keep in mind when calling 911 for police, fire or emergency medical assistance. The following frequently asked questions address important considerations related to emergency communications.
When should I call 911?
You should call 911 only if you need an emergency response from police, fire or emergency medical personnel. For non-emergencies, call your local police or fire department or other appropriate agency.
If the situation seems urgent and has the potential to become dangerous, call 911. Dispatchers will determine whether your call should be handled by 911 or can be transferred to another person or agency.
Examples of when to call 911 include:
- A serious medical emergency (chest pains, seizures, bleeding, etc.)
- Any type of fire (structure, vehicle, brush, etc.)
- Any crime in-progress (robbery, burglary, prowler, fights, etc.)
- Any other life threatening situations (traffic accident with injuries, etc.)
Common reasons that people call 911 that can and should be handled by other agencies include:
- A power outage – call your utilities company
- Traffic information – call 511
- Health and human services – call 211
DO NOT call 911 for the following:
- For information
- For directory assistance
- As a prank
- To report a crime that occurred yesterday
- For your pet
What will I be asked when I call 911?
For all 911 calls, you will be asked for the:
- Location of the emergency: This is the address where the emergency is actually happening. If you don't know the address, let the dispatcher know and then:
Give cross streets or a "hundred block"
Provide landmarks, business names or parks near the emergency
Look at the house numbers in the area
If you are calling from inside a home or business, look on a piece of mail
- Phone number you are calling from: If you get disconnected or you hang up, the 911 dispatcher will be able to call you back.
- Nature of your emergency: Once the nature of the emergency is established, the 911 dispatcher will ask you questions pertaining to your emergency and may give you pre-arrival instructions in the case of a medical emergency.
It is important to speak clearly and to answer all of the questions the dispatcher asks you as calmly and completely as possible. While you may be asked many questions, this information is not delaying a response by emergency personnel. In fact, emergency personnel are typically dispatched as soon as the location and nature of the emergency is known. The 911 center will continue to relay the necessary information to the emergency personal while they ask you questions, and in some cases they may keep you on the phone until help arrives.
Never hang up until the 911 dispatcher tells you to do s