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When to call 9-1-1  orWhen NOT to call 9-1-1

What is 9-1-1?

Dialing 911 is an immediate way to contact local emergency services (law enforcement, fire, or medical) during an emergency. The 911 system is a nationwide emergency telephone number public service with the primary objective of preserving life and property. Ideally, nearly every American citizen, and visitor to this country, whom has access to a telephone, may summon aid by dialing this simple three-digit number, regardless of location, familiarity with an area, time of day, or type of emergency. The 911 system is a team of professional men and women whom are on call 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week, 365 days-a-year. These people are trained to assist in getting emergency help to you as quickly as possible.

Benefits of 911

  • There is only one number to remember – 911 – so in an emergency, you won't have to look up a number for police, fire, or EMS (Emergency Medical Service).
  • Using 911 eliminates the need to determine which emergency response agency to call.
  • Enhanced 911 technology displays your calling location so you don't have to speak in order for the dispatcher to know your address.
  • All emergency agencies have devices called a TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) to communicate with hearing impaired callers.

How 911 works

The emergency number 911 can be dialed from any telephone and will go directly to the PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) where special computers and monitors display the location and phone number where the 911 call originated. A typical 911 ANI/ALI (Automatic Number Identifier/Automatic Location Identifier) display will provide the phone number, address, apartment or lot number (if necessary), and the name of the telephone service subscriber.

The 911 call taker will ask questions about your emergency and determine what type of emergency response agency will best meets your needs. You may be asked to "stay on the line" while you are transferred to the appropriate response agency. (For example, to Oklahoma State Patrol if you are reporting an emergency that is happening on a state highway).

Avoid programming 9-1-1 into your autodial

Do not program 9-1-1 into your home or cellular phones and be sure to lock your cellular keypad. Experience has proven this to be the cause of unintended calls that burden the 9-1-1 system unnecessarily. Programming 9-1-1 into your autodial saves no significant time. In fact, there is greater potential for dialing error.

When to call 911

Dial 911 in any EMERGENCY.

An emergency is defined as: any serious situation where a police officer, fire fighter, or emergency medical help is needed immediately.

Note: If you are calling from a PBX or CENTREX telephone system it may be necessary to dial 9-911 (dialing 9 to first get an outside line).

Dial 911 for EMERGENCIES only such as:

  • injuries requiring emergency medical attention
  • unconsciousness
  • choking
  • poisoning
  • drowning
  • life threatening situations
  • fires
  • smoke in a building
  • child abuse in progress
  • crimes in progress
  • shooting or display of weapons
  • stabbing
  • motor vehicle accidents or major traffic and street obstructions
  • hazardous chemical spills
  • fire alarms, smoke detectors, or carbon monoxide alarms that are sounding
  • sparking electrical hazards
  • or any other emergency

Questions the 911 Dispatcher may ask

  • What is your emergency?
  • What is the location of the emergency? (address, street name, house/apartment number)
  • When did this happen?
  • What is your name?
  • What is the phone number you are calling from?
  • Do you need a law enforcement officer?
  • How many patients?
  • Is the patient conscious?
  • Is the patient breathing? Normally?
  • Are there any other problems with the patient?
  • What is on fire?
  • Can you get out of the house?
  • Are you in immediate danger?
  • Suspect description?
  • Vehicle description?
  • License number?
  • Suspect's direction of travel?
  • Did you see any weapons?
  • How many suspects?

It is important to remember that THESE QUESTIONS ARE NOT DELAYING THE EMERGENCY RESPONSE! Help is being sent even while you are talking to the dispatcher. In order for us to help you, you must help us obtain all the necessary information to process the call. From this point the dispatcher may ask a series of questions directed to the status of the patient and offer medical intervention as to how you as the caller can aid the patient. Always attempt to be as calm as possible. You are an important part of providing help to those in need.

What to do if you can’t speak

  • Stay calm.
  • Dial 911.
  • Either leave the phone hanging or make some sort of noise to let the dispatcher know there is a real emergency.
  • With Enhanced 911 your address is provided to the call taker and they can go ahead and dispatch police, fire, or medical assistance to your location even if they do not hear you speak.

Types of phones that can access 911

  • Cellular/Mobile
  • Pay Phone
  • Portable
  • Rotary dial
  • Touch-tone
  • TTY (deaf/hearing impaired)
  • VoIP (Voice-over Internet Protocol)

    NOTE: VoIP allows you to make telephone calls using a computer network, over a data network like the Internet. VoIP converts the voice signal from your telephone into a digital signal that travels over the internet then converts it back at the other end so you can speak to anyone with a regular phone number. Calls to 911 with traditional telephones provide emergency service dispatchers with the caller's number and address. In contrast, VoIP providers do not all connect to the systems that route calls directly to emergency dispatchers. Sometimes the 911 calls do not include location information and end up at office numbers that are not always answered.

Dialing 911 on a cellular phone

Cellular 911 calls are FREE!

  • If you are in your vehicle, pull off to the side of the road.
  • Dial 911.
  • Tell the call-taker the location of the emergency and your call-back number. Some cellular phones may not have the ability to inform the 911 dispatcher of your identity or location or (in some cases) your cell phone number.
  • Be patient. Cellular/wireless calls are not always automatically routed to the nearest PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point). Often times you may need to be transferred to the correct agency in that area.

Ideas to help in the home

  • Keep your phone at an easy-to-reach level, like on a coffee table or bed stand.
  • A cordless phone offers mobility in the home.
  • Write your address in large print on or near your phone.
  • Make sure your street address is on your mailbox and on the front of your house, easily visible from the street.

When not to call 911