911 FAQ’s

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What happens when you call 911?

Many 911 call centers follow protocols that guide callers through a sequence of questions to quickly obtain information necessary for dispatching the right responders to the right location. Call-takers may also provide instructions about what to do until help arrives. Even though protocols are designed to help call-takers reassure callers and take charge of the situation, the experience can be stressful for a 911 caller who is not accustomed to dealing with emergencies. When you call 911, be prepared to answer the call-taker’s questions, which may include:

  • The location of the emergency, including the street address
  • The phone number you are calling from
  • The nature of the emergency
  • Details about the emergency, such as a physical description of a person who may have committed a crime, a description of any fire that may be burning, or a description of injuries or symptoms being experienced by a person having a medical emergency

Remember, the call-taker’s questions are important to get the right kind of help to you as quickly as possible. Be prepared to follow any instructions the call-taker gives you. Many 911 centers can tell you exactly what to do until help arrives, such as providing step-by-step instructions to aid someone who is choking, needs first aid or CPR. Do not hang up until the call-taker instructs you to do so.

What should I do if I acccidentally dial 911?

If you dial 911 by mistake, or if a child in your home dials 911 when no emergency exists, do not hang up – that could make 911 officials think that an emergency exists, and possibly send responders to your location. Instead, simply explain to the call-taker what happened.

How can I register my Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Phone for 911?

VoIP service allows users to place and receive calls to and from traditional phone numbers using an internet connection and can be used in place of traditional phone service. Because VoIP phones can be used anywhere an internet connection is available, the 911 call center cannot locate callers unless the VoIP device is registered to a physical address through the VoIP provider. Anytime the VoIP phone is moved from one location to another, the owner should contact the provider to update the new physical location of the device. Learn more about VoIP devices from the FCC.

Can I dial 911 from a wireless phone without a wireless calling plan?

All wireless phones, even those that are not subscribed to or supported by a specific carrier, can be used to dial 911. These uninitialized phones are often used to place malicious or fake calls to 911 call centers. These calls are a burden on the 911 system because they require the answering center to confirm whether or not an emergency truly exists.

Oftentimes, parents provide these uninitialized wireless phones as toys to young children, unaware that if the child dials 911, a live call will be connected with the local 911 call center. If a child dials 911 when no emergency exists, do not hang up – that could make 911 officials think that an emergency exists, and possibly send responders to the location. Instead, simply explain to the call-taker what happened.

How can I prevent my child from accidentally dialing 911?

Teaching children appropriate use of the 911 system is as important as teaching them how to place a 911 call. A variety of resources are available to help parents and educators train children when and how to call 911. For more information, visit 911 for Kids. Parents should also be aware that wireless phones without a current calling plan through a wireless provider are still capable of connecting a call to a local 911 center. Children should be told not to dial 911 from these old or uninitialized phones without a charged battery, as a live call will be connected with the local 911 call center.

What are 911 apps?

A number of private companies have developed and sell a variety of smartphone computer applications intended to supplement the use of 911. Because 911 system capabilities vary across the United States, it is important that application developers have confirmed that their company/organization has the legal authority to contact 911 on a caller’s behalf. If you have any questions regarding the use of a particular app with the call center in your community, please contact the application provider directly to ask questions about legal authority or the use of their application by a specific 911 call center.

Why are 911 fees included on my landline or wireless bill?

Local governments pass laws that allow them to collect 911 fees through your local telephone service or wireless provider. The fees collected are distributed to help pay for emergency communication and response services in your area. Enhanced 911 (E911), which enables a wireless device to transmit its phone number and geographic location to the 911 call center, is an example of how wireless services have upgraded their delivery of 911 calls over time. According to the FCC, some wireless service providers may choose to pass their costs of providing E911 service on to their customers and this charge may also be described as an E911 charge on your wireless telephone bill.

Are 911 call takers certified?

Some 911 professionals are certified as emergency medical dispatchers (EMDs), emergency fire dispatchers (EFDs) or emergency police dispatchers (EPDs), which means they have received additional specialized training to assist callers in all types of emergencies. Managers and supervisors may also be certified as emergency number professionals, or ENPs, demonstrating that they have mastered the comprehensive knowledge base necessary to manage an emergency number program.

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