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9-1-1: Things Everyone Needs To Know

It’s important to know how to help 9-1-1 help YOU! In an emergency seconds matter, so being prepared can make all the difference.

Know WHEN to call 9-1-1
9-1-1 is for emergencies only. You should only dial 9-1-1 if someone is hurt or in danger, or if you are in immediate need of police, fire or medical assistance. If you aren’t sure if your situation is an emergency, you should err on the side of safety and call 9-1-1 and let the expert who answers your call make the decision whether to send help or not.

Know WHEN NOT to call 9-1-1
Don’t call 9-1-1 because your power or cable is out or because you are late for a meeting and need to find an address. While those situations may count as emergencies for you, they aren’t for public safety. Inappropriate use of the 9-1-1 system wastes resources and ties up the lines at the 9-1-1 center, and nobody wants to be on hold when they are in the middle of a real crisis.

Know the capabilities of the device you are using
9-1-1 can be contacted from pretty much every device that can make a phone call (traditional landline, cell phones, VoIP), but the callback and location information that accompanies your call to the 9-1-1 center can vary drastically amongst technologies and between geographic regions.

Know WHERE you are
This is probably the most important information you can provide as a 9-1-1 caller, so try to be aware of your surroundings. Make a real effort to be as detailed as possible, if you are outside and don’t know the street address, take a look around and try to find landmarks or cross streets. If you are inside a large building or one with multiple levels, you can help emergency services by letting them know which floor you are on, which apartment you are in, etc.

Stay calm
When you are on the phone with 9-1-1, you are their eyes and ears. Even though, you may want to, try not to panic. If you are crying or yelling, it can be hard for the 9-1-1 operator to understand you. If you are unable to stay strong, pull yourself together and answer ALL of the 9-1-1 operator’s questions, the faster they can get the right services to your location.

NEVER hang up
You may have called 9-1-1 by accident, or your situation may have resolved itself, but it is important to let the 9-1-1 operator know this. If you end the call abruptly, the 9-1-1 operator is going to assume that something has gone very wrong and will either call you back or send help anyway. This will take away from the 9-1-1 center’s ability to take calls and dispatch services to ongoing emergencies, so make sure the 91-1 operator tells you it is okay to hang up. Keep in mind that the 9-1-1 operator can dispatch responders to your location with disconnecting from the call, so, until you are instructed to do otherwise, make sure to hold the line so that you can provide any necessary information or assistance to the 9-1-1 operator.