When should I call 911?
- Any serious medical emergency; chest pains, seizures, bleeding, etc.
- Any crime in-progress: robbery, burglary, prowler, fights, etc.
- Any type of fire: structure, vehicle, brush, etc.
- Any other life threatening situations: traffic accidents, etc.
The most important piece of information during any emergency is the location. With this single piece of information, first responders can be dispatched. When you call 911 from a landline telephone, the dispatcher is automatically provided with the phone number and the location that you are calling from. You will be asked to verify this information since quite often individuals call 911 from locations other than where the incident is occurring. If you call 911 from a cell phone, this vital information if not provided. It is very important that you provide the location and the phone number to the dispatcher when using a cell phone.
The dispatcher will ask “What is your emergency?” At this point you should give a quick description of what occurred. The dispatcher will then ask a series of questions which are extremely important to the proper handling of the call. These may include:
- Is anyone injured?
- How long ago did the incident occur?
- Were there weapons involved and if so, what type?
- What was the description of the suspect?
- Did the suspect flee, and if so, what is the direction of travel?
- If a vehicle was involved, what was the description and what was the direction of travel?
Although these may seem like an unreasonable number of questions during an emergency, they are very important to emergency personnel. For example, if a burglary has just occurred and the suspect flees, the officers have a much better chance of apprehending the suspect if they have a good description of the suspect and the last known direction. More importantly, if the incident in question involved a weapon, the life of the officer may depend on the information given.
A common misconception is the dispatcher waits until finishing the call before sending help. During an emergency, the Communications Center works as a team. The call taker remains on the line with the caller and sends the information to the dispatcher, who dispatches police officers or fire department personnel.
It is very important that you stay on the line during a call to 911 unless your life is threatened by doing so. The dispatcher will continue to ask you questions while the emergency units are en-route.