Using The 9-1-1 System

What Is 9-1-1

9-1-1 is your communication link to emergency Police, Fire and Medical Services!


  • There is only one telephone number to remember in an emergency, so you won't have to look up the number for Police, Fire or EMS.
  • 9-1-1 eliminates the need to determine which emergency agency to call.
  • Thanks to Enhanced 9-1-1 technology, which displays your calling location, you don't have to be able to speak in order for the dispatcher to know your address.
  • All emergency agencies have devices called a Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD) to communicate with hearing impaired callers.

What Happens When You Dial 9-1-1

  • Your call is automatically routed to the correct Public Safety Answering Point based on your location.
  • With 9-1-1, your address and telephone number are automatically displayed on a computer screen in front of the call-taker.
  • Based on the 9-1-1 information, the call-taker will either take your emergency information or transfer your call to the appropriate agency.
  • If you call 9-1-1 by mistake, do not hang up. The operator already has you address and phone number and will need to verify that is was a mistake call and not someone that needs help but did not stay on the line.

What Is An Emergency?

An emergency is any serious situation where a police officer, fire fighter, or emergency medical help is needed right away.


  • Accident with injuries
  • Fire (or smell of smoke)
  • Crime in progress
  • Breathing problems
  • Choking/unconscious person
  • Poisoning
  • Drowning
  • Stabbing, shooting
  • Fights or displays of weapons
  • Other life-threatening situations

Not an Emergency

  • Minor accidents (no injuries)
  • Barking dogs
  • Late report of crime
  • Power outage during a storm
  • Abandoned vehicle
  • Loud parties
  • Weather and road conditions
  • Keys locked in vehicle
  • Runaways
  • Legal advice

If your call is a non-emergency, please call the proper non-emergency seven-digit telephone number found in the phone book or through directory assistance.

In An Emergency, Remember To...

  • Dial 9-1-1
  • Stay calm
  • State which emergency service you need:
    • Police/Sheriff
    • Fire Department
    • Emergency Medical Service
  • Speak calmly
  • State your emergency. What's wrong?
  • State your address - it is very important to verify the address, include building number, apartment number, nearest cross street. The name of the building is also helpful.
  • Who needs help? Age / number of people.
  • Are they conscious? Yes or no.
  • Are they breathing? Yes or no.

Emergency Equipment Operators are trained to get as much information as possible regarding all 9-1-1 calls. Here are examples of the three most common 9-1-1 calls and the type of information that is needed to properly handle the call:

How you can help before the Emergency Department arrives

  • Assure the patient that help is on the way.
  • Keep the phone line clear after the 911 call is made.
  • Direct someone to wait out front to meet the ambulance and lead the way.
  • Wave a flashlight or turn on flashers of a car or porch light if it's dark or visibility is poor
  • Consider having an interpreter if the patient does not speak English.
  • Secure pets, especially dogs, in a separate area.
  • Have a visible address, easily readable from the street.
  • Gather or make a list of medications that the patient is using and give to emergency personnel.
  • Automobile Accident
    • Give the street and block number or the nearest major location.
    • If there are injuries - be sure and advise.
    • Information such as Fuel Spill, possible fire danger, etc., is important.
  • Suspicious Person
    • Give the sex, race, and age of the person(s).
    • Give a clothing description.
    • Describe the suspicious activity.
  • Suspicious Vehicle
    • Get the vehicle description, color, make, model, year, and anything unusual about the vehicle.
    • Are there people in the vehicle? If so, how many? Age? Race? Sex? Clothing description?
    • Is the vehicle parked or moving? If moving, the direction of travel.

Visit our Subject Descriptions Page for helpful information on reporting suspicious activity.

Stay on the line!!! Do not hang up until the operator tells you. If you can, stay by the phone in case the 9-1-1 call-taker needs to call you back.

What To Do If You Can't Speak

  • Stay calm
  • Dial 9-1-1
  • Either leave the phone hanging or make some sort of noise to let the dispatcher know there is an emergency.
  • With Enhanced 9-1-1 providing your address, the call-taker can dispatch police assistance to your location.

Types Of Phones That Can Access 9-1-1

  • Touch-tone
  • Cordless
  • Rotary
  • Cellular/Mobile
  • Pay phones (no money is needed - simply press the numbers 9-1-1
  • TDD/TTY (Deaf and hearing impaired)

Calling 9-1-1 On A Cellular Phone

  • If you are in your vehicle pull off to the side of the road.
  • Dial 9-1-1
  • Tell the call-taker the location of the emergency and your call back cellular phone number. Cellular calls do not have an address or location on the dispatcher's screen.
  • Be patient. Cellular calls are not automatically routed to the nearest or correct Public Safety Answering Point. Often times you may need to be transferred to the correct agency in that area.
  • Stay on the line until the call-taker has all the necessary information.

Ideas To Help In The Home

  • Keep your phone at an easy to reach level, like on the coffee table.
  • A cordless phone offers mobility in the home.
  • Write your address and telephone number in large print on or near your phone.
  • Make sure your address is on the front of your house.
  • Do not program 9-1-1 into speed dial. It can inadvertently be dialed.
  • Be sure and teach your children how to use 9-1-1 for emergencies.