What to Expect
You will call 911 only once or twice in your lifetime, so it’s important that you know what to do and what to expect when making the call.
911 call takers are trained to ask only questions that are relevant to your particular emergency. Your answers to their questions will help them determine the most appropriate level of response for your situation. Most importantly, be patient, stay calm, and speak clearly throughout the call. Be ready to provide the location of the emergency, the phone number you’re calling from, and a brief description of the problem. Pay attention to the dispatcher’s questions and respond clearly, answering all questions, no matter how pertinent they may or may not seem to your situation. Try not to argue over the relevancy of questioning.
Tips For Calling 911
- If you have a landline phone use it to call 911, if possible, because cell phone calls do not always provide dispatch with an address or phone number.
- If only a cell phone is available, study your surroundings. The dispatcher might need more specific information, including landmarks and cross streets, for responders to locate you.
- Do not hesitate to call 911 if you or someone else is facing a situation that may pose an immediate risk to health, life, property or the environment. Take action immediately and dial 911 for local police, fire or medical emergency assistance.
- 911 is a 24-hour service, and all calls are free. Sometimes it takes time to route the call to the correct answering point. Do no5 hang up. If you become disconnected, call back.
- Respect the 911 system, but not to the point of intimidation. It’s there to help you in an emergency. You will be speaking directly to a person who is trained to help you. This person is the first, first responder.
- To help responders, put your house/apartment/condo number on your front, outside wall.
- To aid responders, compile critical information and put it in a safe place known to other family members or close friends. Include an updated record of the following information for everyone living in your household: name, phone numbers, contact numbers, doctors’ phone numbers, allergies, and blood type.
- If you call 911 by mistake, do not hang up. When the call is answered, tell the dispatcher the call was made accidentally and there is no emergency. Otherwise, emergency help may be sent unnecessarily.
- Post your phone number and address by the telephone or on the refrigerator. It is not uncommon to forget your address or phone number during an emergency situation, especially if you have recently moved. A child might not remember this information unless it is written down. Emergency responders cannot help you if they cannot find you.
- Provide answers in a controlled tone of voice. Try not to lose your composure. The dispatcher understands any fears you may be feeling and will do his or her best to keep you calm.
- If you have trouble answering the dispatcher’s questions or following his or her instructions, and you are not alone, hand the phone to someone else in the room who is able to do so.
- Do not disconnect until the dispatcher says it is OK for you to end the call.
What to Teach Children About 911
The following is a list of tips to help you prepare your children in the event they need to call 9-1-1:
- Teach your child to dial “nine-one-one.” Do not use the term “nine-eleven” since there is no eleven on the telephone keypad.
- Explain the purpose of 911 and use examples to illustrate when he or she should call 911. Tell your child scenarios that are more likely to occur in your home or with friends or relatives. For example, Grandma has a heart condition, and Dad is allergic to bee stings.
- Make sure your child knows his or her address and phone number. Teach through repetition or use a creative song or rhyme.
- It is also important for your child to know his or her full name and the names of his or her parents.
- When not at home, teach your child to look at his or her surroundings if he or she does not know the address. Street signs, an address on a piece of mail, and street numbers on a building, house or curb can all provide useful information.
- Ensure there is at least one phone in the home that your child can access. Make sure he or she knows how to dial 911 using a landline and a cell phone, since both are common. Demonstrate how to hold a phone and speak clearly so he or she can be understood. Practice using both types of phones by making a call to a family member or friend.
- Instruct your child to go to a trusted neighbor’s house before calling 911 in the event of a dangerous situation like a burglar or a fire.
- Let your child know that he or she can trust the dispatcher and answer all of his or her questions, providing as much information as possible.
- Instruct your child to follow the dispatcher’s instructions.
- Tell your child to stay on the line and keep talking to the dispatcher until he or she is told to hang up.
- Make sure your child knows what to do if he or she accidentally calls 911. He or she should tell the dispatcher it was an accident and there is no emergency. Otherwise, emergency help may be unnecessarily sent.
- Instruct your child to call only when there is an actual emergency. 911 is not a toy. Prank calls are illegal in most states and waste valuable time and resources. More importantly, prank calls can mean a delayed response for someone experiencing a true emergency. They will be dealt with by law enforcement.
- Do not allow your children to play with a phone that has a working battery. Even when the phone’s service has been disconnected, you are still able to dial 911 and reach a dispatcher.