9-1-1 Calling Tips

Tips When Calling 9-1-1

Attempt to stay calm when you are talking to 9-1-1 dispatchers. Take a deep breath. Dispatchers will verify your address and phone number. Listen to and answer each question. Do not hang up after dialing 9-1-1 until the dispatchers tell you to do so (even if you did not mean to dial 9-1-1). 

When you report an emergency, the dispatcher will ask you at least six basic questions: 

  • Where is this happening?
  • What is happening?
  • When did this happen?
  • Who is involved?
  • How can we help you?
  • What information do I need to give a good description?

In many 9-1-1 emergencies, dispatchers will ask you to describe the people and/or vehicles involved in the emergency. When describing individuals, start at the top of the head and work your way down the individual’s body. 

Other questions dispatchers will ask:

  • What is the presumed race and sex of the subject?
  • What was the presumed height and weight of the subject?
  • What is the presumed hair color?
  • What was the subject(s) wearing (start from top of head and go down the body)?
  • Did the subject(s) have a moustache, beard, accent, limp, glasses, or anything unusual that might make the subject(s) stand out? Were any weapons seen?

When describing a vehicle the dispatcher will ask for the following information:

  • Color of the vehicle
  • Year of the vehicle
  • Make of the vehicle
  • Body style (2 door/4 door, etc.)
  • Additional description (dents, lights out, direction of travel, etc.)
  • License plate on the vehicle

Helpful Tips for Seniors

  • Invest in a touch-tone phone with large, easy-to-read numbers.
  • Some phones can be purchased with a switch that will go from pulse dialing to touch-tone dialing - make sure the switch is set to touch-tone.
  • Call 9-1-1 right away in an emergency.
  • Dialing “0” will not always connect you with an operator nearby - it may connect you with an operator many hundreds of miles away.
  • Always dial 9-1-1 for local police, fire or medical emergency assistance.
  • Call 9-1-1 before calling a family member.
  • Once help is on the way, arrangements can be made to notify your family.
  • Stay on the line with the 9-1-1 call taker and answer all questions - the more information they have, the better able they are to help you.
  • Be patient and stay calm.
  • The call taker and emergency dispatchers may need to ask additional questions while help is on the way.
  • The 9-1-1 system allows the call taker to know where you are calling from even if you cannot speak, for instance, if you are experiencing a stroke or if there is an intruder in your home - just dial 9-1-1 and leave the phone off the hook. Do not hang up.
  • Post your address by your telephone - if you have just moved after retirement, you may have a new address, but you may recite your old address in an emergency situation, or you may have visitors who are not familiar with your address. This makes it difficult for the call taker to verify the address that appears on the computer screen.
  • Put your house number on your front, outside wall. Large white numbers against a dark background work best.
  • Emergency responders cannot help you if they cannot find you.
  • All calls to 9-1-1 are free, even from pay phones or cell phones.
  • 9-1-1 is a 24 hour a day service.
  • You should call immediately when an emergency occurs, even if it is in the middle of the night.
  • Keep your medical history taped to the refrigerator in an envelope clearly marked with your doctor’s phone number(s).