911 FAQs

How can I help the 9-1-1 dispatcher when I call?

When reporting an emergency:

  • Remain calm.
  • Speak clearly.
  • Listen to instructions.
  • Answer all questions.
  • Do not hang up until the dispatcher has told you that you can.

The person answering 9-1-1 is a trained dispatcher who will ask a series of questions, such as:

WHAT is happening? WHERE is it happening?
WHEN did the incident occur?
WHO is involved or injured?
WHAT injuries do you see?

Why do the dispatchers ask so many questions when I call?

Dispatchers ask for important information first in case the call is disconnected:

  • call back number
  • address of incident
  • type of call
  • name of caller

Once the initial information is obtained, additional questions may be asked depending on the type of call. The questioning does not slow down the dispatching of the appropriate assistance. In emergencies, information is relayed immediately to emergency responders and they start heading to the incident. The dispatcher remains on the phone to gather further details to relay to responding units. The dispatcher assists callers by giving instructions on whay to do until help arrives, such as how to perform chest compressions on someone who has had a heart attack. Based on the information they collect, dispatchers will assess the personal safety of the caller and of the scene and send police if necessary.

Can I call 9-1-1 on my cell phone, and is there a cost involved?

Yes, you can call 9-1-1 from your cell phone. However, be prepared to give the 9-1-1 call taker very specific location information because the address will not show up on the dispatcher’s screen in a call center, unlike when you call from a landline. It is free to call 9-1-1 on your cell phone.

What if I call 9-1-1 by mistake, should I just hang up?

If you call 9-1-1 by mistake, PLEASE DO NOT HANG UP. Stay on the line and tell the dispatcher that everything is all right. If a caller to 9-1-1 hangs up without stating the problem, the caller will be contacted to insure that no actual emergency exists. If a dispatcher can not reach the number, they dispatch an officer to check on the address. One common misconception that people have about calling 9-1-1 by mistake is that they will somehow get into trouble. This is not true unless the call was made as a prank or with malicious intent.