Things to Remember When You Call 9-1-1

Emergency situations can be very frightening. That’s why we train our 9-1-1 call takers to remain calm and focused no matter what emergency they face. When you call 9-1-1, you and the call taker become a team, and the call taker has the knowledge to help you through your emergency. But until the first responders arrive, you are the person who is actually on the scene of the emergency, so the call taker needs your help to ensure the best outcome. Here are a few ways you can help us give you the best assistance the next time you call 9-1-1:

Know your location. Our 9-1-1 call takers have several tools they can use to pinpoint your location, but the most reliable way is still for you to simply tell us where you are. Know your home address and teach it to your family, and be aware of your surroundings while you are out in public. What road are you on? What are the names of nearby businesses or landmarks? If you are on the interstate, what is the nearest mile marker? When you call 9-1-1 the first question we ask is the most important: “What is the address of the emergency?” In the event that we don't receive any further information from you, we can still send help to your location if we at least know where that location is.

Stay calm. We know how scary it can be if you or a loved one is in danger, especially if that danger is sudden and unexpected. So in the precious minutes after an emergency has started, remember that you can still improve the situation. We are right here with you on the other end of the phone to help you affect the outcome of the emergency, but if you are panicked, the call taker may have trouble understanding what you are saying. We need you to speak clearly and concisely so we can get you help as fast as possible. And we need you to focus so you can follow our instructions.

Answer the call taker’s questions. We want to make sure you get exactly the help you need as fast as we can get it to you. In order to do this, we ask you several specific questions, and each of these questions has a reason behind it. Your answers are then sent to the first responders who will be coming to help you. You may have information that you want to tell the call taker, but it’s also important that you let them lead the conversation, and that you listen to the questions they are asking you. Then answer those questions as calmly as you are able to. Keep in mind that the questions will not delay help being sent to you. Responders can be dispatched while the call taker gathers information from you.

Don’t hang up unless the call taker tells you it’s okay to hang up, or unless you are in danger. Even if you have said everything you think you need to say, the call taker may still have questions to ask you, or important instructions to give you, so stay on the phone until they tell you that you can disconnect. If you can’t talk because you feel you’re in danger, that’s okay. It’s still best for you to stay on the line, so that the call taker can tell you what to do next.

If you don’t know whether or not to call 9-1-1, call us anyway. We would much rather send you help that isn’t needed than have you not call us when you need help. It is our privilege to be here for you whenever you need us to assist with an emergency. We are here to serve you.