When to Dial 911?

An emergency is when immediate police, fire department, or medical assistance is necessary to protect life or property.

If an emergency situation arises - a crime, a fire, a serious injury or illness - ask yourself whether police, fire department or medical assistance is needed right now to protect life or property. If the answer is YES, then immediately dial 911 and advise the 911 operator of what has happened or is happening. If you are not sure if it's a real emergency, dial 911 and the 911 operator will make the final determination.

If the 911 system receives several calls at the same time, emergency services handle these multiple calls on a priority basis. The most serious emergency will be handled first.

No money is needed for calling 911 from a pay phone. If there is an emergency, you can just pick up a pay phone, wait for the dial tone, and dial 911 without depositing a coin. You can also dial 911 from a deactivated cell phone as long as the phone has power.

Please be advised that if you call 911 from a cell phone that has been deactivated from a service provider, the 911 operator may not be able to determine your location as if you had called with a cell phone with active service or a landline. Please try to convey your location immediately when calling 911 at any time, but especially from any active or deactivated cell phone.

When Calling 911?
  • Stay Calm. Give your location and nature of the emergency.
  • Listen carefully to the 911 operator and their questions and instructions.
  • Answer the 911 operator's questions as accurately as possible. Speak clearly and calmly.
  • Do exactly as the 911 operator tells you during the course of the call.
  • Never hang up on the 911 operator until you are told to do so.
  • Sometimes it seems like a 911 operator is asking irrelevant questions or taking too much time. 911 operators need certain questions answered. Be aware that there are several 911 operators in the Center and each one assists the others when they may be idle. So even if it seems like a 911 operator is taking valuable minutes away from an emergency response by asking questions, usually the other 911 operators have already initiated the responders (Police/Fire/EMS) by phone and/or radio and help is on the way.

Wireless 911 Location Technology

Location technology for wireless cell phones for 911 use has improved by leaps and bounds in the last decade. However, one should never assume that a 911 operator can automatically find your location from a wireless/cellular call every time. It is always important to begin the call by first telling the 911 operator your location if it is known and can be done safely, without placing yourself in harm. Television programs such as CSI, NCIS and the likes sometimes convey a misconception to the public that a 911 operator can track your phone with 100% accuracy any and every time you call in to 911. They also represent that government agencies have the ability to instantly locate any cell phone under any circumstance. The truth is that a majority of the time a general location can be determined from a cell phone 911 call. Sometimes a very accurate or exact location can be determined. However, there are variables that can hamper 911 centers receiving accurate location information from wireless/cellular callers, and it is not always possible to get accurate wireless/cellular locations. Keep this in mind and ALWAYS tell the 911 operator immediately where the emergency is first.

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