A 9-1-1 system is considered either Basic or Enhanced. A Basic 9-1-1 system provides three-digit dialing, no-coin from pay telephones and intelligent routing to the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) that handles the area where the phone is located. An Enhanced 9-1-1 system adds the ability to display the caller’s address and telephone number at the PSAP for the dispatcher’s reference.
In general, 9-1-1 is an emergency number for any police, fire or medical incident.
Do not program 9-1-1 into your autodial telephone. You won’t forget the number, and programming the number invites accidental dialing of the number. Also, please do not dial 9-1-1 to “test” your phone or the system. This needlessly burdens the dispatchers and system with non-emergency calls.
Dial 9-1-1 only for an emergency. An emergency is any serious medical problem (chest pain, seizure, bleeding, etc), any type of fire (business, car, building, etc), or any life-threatening situation (fights, person with weapons, etc.). You can also use 9-1-1 to report crimes in progress, whether or not a life is threatened. If you aren’t sure if you should call, it’s better to call anyway!
If you dialed 9-1-1 in error, do not hang up the telephone. Instead, stay on the line and explain to the dispatcher that you dialed by mistake and that you do not have an emergency. If you hang up, a dispatcher will call back to confirm that there is no emergency. If you don’t answer, a police officer must be dispatched to confirm that you are OK. This will needlessly take resources away from genuine emergencies.
When the dispatcher answers, briefly describe the type of incident you are reporting. For example, “I’m reporting an auto fire,” or “I’m reporting an unconscious person.” Then stay on the line with the dispatcher – do not hang up until the dispatcher tells you to. In some cases, the dispatcher will keep you on the line while the emergency units are responding to ask additional questions, obtain on-going information, or provide pre-arrival instructions.
Let the call-taker ask you questions – they have been trained to ask questions that will help prioritize the incident, locate it and speed an appropriate response. Your answers should be brief and responsive. Remain calm and speak clearly. If you are not in a position to give full answers to the call-taker (the suspect is nearby), stay on the phone and the dispatcher will ask you questions that can be answered “yes” or “no”.