What to do when dialing 911

Seconds count in an emergency. When police, fire, or medical emergencies occur, 911 can save precious time. It can mean saving a home, property, or even a life.

If you need immediate help from law enforcement, fire personnel, and/or emergency medical services, 911 is the most important number to know and use. Here are some general tips for using 911:

  • Dial 911 from somewhere safe – if you are calling to report a fire, get out of the burning structure before calling.
  • Try to stay calm.
  • Speak clearly.
  • Give the 911 dispatcher your location, using an address, cross streets, or landmarks.
  • Give the 911 dispatcher your phone number.
  • Describe what type of help is needed:
    • Police / sheriff
    • Fire
    • EMS / ambulance
  • Stay on the line, if safe to do so, and answer all questions.
  • Don’t hang up until the call is completed.

What to do if you accidentally dial 911
Do stay on the line so that you can tell the call taker and so that your information can be verified.

What to do when you have an emergency & dial 911
Dial 911 only for an emergency. An emergency is any serious medical problem, any type of fire, or any threatening situation to life or property.

What to do:

  • Post your address and phone number near each phone in your home or on the refrigerator. Visitors, babysitters, and even family members may need to relay this information in a stressful situation.
  • Call 911 if you have an emergency and need police, fire, or medical.
  • Let the dispatcher ask you questions – they are trained to ask questions that will help prioritize, locate, and respond to the incident quickly.
  • Lock the keys on your cell phone to prevent accidentally dialing the programmed one-touch 911.
  • Teach your children about calling 911 in an emergency and make sure they know their address and phone number.
  • Take the battery out of old cell phones you give your children to play with. Even though there is no service to the cell phone, 911 still can be dialed.

What not to do:

  • Program 911 into your auto-dial phone. You won’t forget the number and programming it could mean accidentally calling.
  • Hang up if you dial 911 in error. Instead explain to the dispatcher that you accidentally called and do not have an emergency. Otherwise, they will have to call you back and may send a deputy to confirm that you are safe, thus taking resources away from emergencies.
  • Let your cordless battery run down away from the charger. Some cordless phones send out a false 911 signal when the battery is low.
  • Call 911 to ask when power will be restored during an outage, how the road conditions are, or whether schools are open. Contact your utility company or monitor local radio and television for road, weather, and school information.
  • Wait 24 hours to report a missing person or runaway. As soon as you suspect they are missing call 911.
  • Play with 911 or make false calls. It is a violation of the law that is punishable by fine or imprisonment.
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