When to Call 911

911 needs to be called when there is an imminent threat to life or property

  • Danger
  • Imminent threat
  • Injury
  • Possible injury
  • Violence
  • Irrational behavior
  • Property damage
  • Suspicious activity
  • Hazardous condition
  • Crime in progress or about to happen
  • Will police contact result in an apprehension

Things to Remember:

  1. Stay calm. It's important to take a deep breath prior to the call. Any situation that requires a 911 call is an emergency. A caller may be anxious about the situation. However, the caller needs to be under control and communicate to the dispatcher.
  2. Know the location of the emergency and the number you are calling from. Many 911 centers have enhanced capabilities that allow dispatchers to see the location where you are calling and your phone number on their computer screens. Dispatchers are still required to confirm the information. If you are disconnected, emergency responders should know your location and your phone number.
  3. If you reach a recording, listen to what it says. If the recording says your call cannot be completed, hang up and try again. If the recording says all call-takers are busy, wait! Dispatchers are often very busy. A dispatcher will speak to you when available.
  4. Wait for the dispatcher to ask questions. Answer all questions clearly and calmly. If you are in danger of assault, the dispatcher will still need you to answer. You may need to answer quietly. If so, the dispatcher will ask mostly "yes" and "no" questions.
  5. Let the dispatcher guide the conversation. The dispatcher needs to type information into a computer. This may seem to take forever. The dispatcher is typing information to emergency responders that are already being sent while you are waiting on the line.
  6. Follow all directions. In some cases, the dispatcher will give you directions. Listen carefully and follow each step exactly. Ask for clarification if you don't understand.
  7. Keep your eyes open. You may be asked to describe victims, suspects, vehicles, or other events at the scene.
  8. Do not hang up the call. Wait until you are directed to do so by the dispatcher.

What if I call 911 accidentally?
If you accidentally dial 911, do not hang up. Stay on the line and tell the dispatcher that everything is alright. If you don't, the dispatcher will think that something is wrong and send a police officer to check.

Why do the dispatchers ask so many question when I call 911?
Emergency dispatchers need to rapidly obtain accurate information so they can send emergency responders to a scene. Dispatchers must also consider the well-being of the public and the safety of the responders. Callers will be asked: Who, What, Where, When and maybe Why.

Page last modified May 7, 2012