Know Your 911


When an emergency happens, 911 can be a real lifesaver. But it’s important to understand how it works.

911 should only be called in an emergency.

If you need police, fire or emergency medical services, that’s the time to dial 911. You shouldn’t call 911 if your dog is lost or you need help cooking the Thanksgiving turkey.

Never hang up if you dial 911 by mistake! Instead, stay on the line and explain to the call taker that you dialed 911 by accident.

When calling 911, remain calm.

Speak clearly and follow any instructions the call taker may give. The call taker will confirm your name, address and the phone number from which you are calling. Do not hang up until the call taker tells you it’s o.k. to hang up.

Know where you are.

When you call 911, the call taker will ask you what type of emergency for which you are calling and the location of the emergency. It’s always good to be aware of your surrroundings, in case the need to call for help arises.

In many 911 emergencies, the call taker will ask you to describe either the people or the vehicles involved in the emergency.

Give a good description.

When describing a person, start at the top of the head and work your way down:

  • What is the race and gender of the person?
  • How tall is/was the person?
  • What is/was the person’s hair color?
  • What is/was the person wearing?
  • Did/does the person have any facial hair or anything that stands out?

When describing a vehicle, the call taker will ask for the following information:

  • Color
  • Make of vehicle
  • Year of vehicle (or approximation)
  • Body style
  • Additional description
  • License plate on vehicle
Women talking outside to 911 operator on cell phone as ambulance arrives

Can an inactive phone call 911?

You may have an old phone laying around at home, maybe your kids use it as a “play phone”. Those old phones can still call 911. As long as the phone is charged and turned on a call can be placed to 911. Though an inactive phone does not provide a location or call back number.

If your kids use a real phone as a play phone make sure they know not to dial 911 as a joke or during playtime. If an accidental call is made, stay on the line and let the dispatcher know what has happened.


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