In the event an emergency arises and you need to call 911 we are here to help. Due to the sensationalism of crime TV and movies there are many common misconceptions which have been raised causing the general public to believe we know things we do not when we take your calls, such as knowing your location when you call in from a cell phone. This is simply not the case. Below are some common misconceptions and how it really works when we answer your 911 calls.
We are here to help you
When you call 911, the call is routed through a dedicated network to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point, or PSAP, for the caller’s location. Click on “How 911 Really Works” if you would like see further detail on how exactly your call is routed to a 911 Dispatch Center.
If we do not know where you are, we can’t help you!
If reporting an emergency from a cellular phone, it is important we have as much location information as possible, including city name, street names, direction you are traveling (i.e., north or south) and nearby landmarks (i.e., a shopping center or restaurant), so emergency responders can locate and provide assistance more effectively. If you do not know where you are, neither do we. Help us, so we can do what we do best and help you.
911 Hang Ups and Pocket dials
Should you accidentally call 911, do not hang up. When a call is placed to 911, it is still routed through to 911 even if you hang up. Please stay on the line and let us know if you accidentally dialed or pocket dialed. Otherwise, we will call the number back to make sure you are okay and this can waste valuable time for others who are calling in need of emergency assistance.
Additionally, many people allow their children to play with cell phones they no longer use as a toy. This has caused a dramatic rise in calls to 911 with a small child being the voice on the other end which ties up the 911 lines until we can determine if it is an emergency or not. If you are going to allow a child to play with an old cell phone, please supervise them while they are playing with it so you can make sure they are not calling 911.
Landline Phones, Business Phones and Internet (VOIP) Phones
This is your best choice when calling 911. The phone’s address and number will always be displayed for the 911 dispatcher.
These private phone systems may not interface with 911 to provide automatic location and number identification and routing features. Also, a caller usually needs to dial “9” for an outside line on most business phones. Dial carefully; many accidental 911 calls are received from businesses that have to dial “9” and then “1” for long distance.
Internet (VOIP) Phones
Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, phone service allows you to make and receive calls using an Internet connection. You may not even realize that you no longer have landline phone service because many providers simply call it “home phone service.” It’s usually bundled with internet and cable service.
VoIP works differently when calling 911. Consider these critical factors regarding internet phones:
- A VoIP phone location must be registered. Check with your service provider on how to register your address and to determine the level of emergency calling features available.
- If your phone is not registered, 911 calls may not go to the correct 911 center.
- When the power is out, so is your phone. VoIP requires power. Even though VoIP phones have batteries, they will only last a few hours.
If you travel with your VoIP adapter, your 911 call could be routed to the wrong state or country if you don’t remember to update the address. Call from another phone, preferably a landline.
- Be an informed consumer. When considering switching from traditional landline service to VoIP, be sure to read the fine print. Realize that the 911 service you have come to rely on may not work the same with this new phone service.
When should you call 911?
911 is to be used ONLY in emergency situations. An emergency is any situation which requires immediate assistance from the police/sheriff, the fire department or an ambulance. Call 911 to stop a crime, to report a fire and to save a life.
Of course, if you are ever in doubt of whether a situation is an emergency you should call 9-1-1. It is better to be safe and let the 9-1-1 call taker determine if you need emergency assistance. However, there are simply things we do not have access to and would not be able to help you with which could cause a delay in emergency services for those who do need it if you are not calling in an emergency.
Examples of WHEN to call 911:
- Heart attack or stroke
- House fire or electrical hazard
- Domestic violence
- Burglary or theft in progress
- Car accident with life threatening injuries
- Suspicious activities
- Anything else that seems like an emergency!
Examples of when NOT to call 911:
for information on the closest pizza delivery
- for paying tickets or your cell phone bill
- for utility outages
- to get a taxi
- to get a ride for a doctor’s appointment
- to see if someone is in jail
- to check someone’s criminal history
- as a prank