Frequently Asked Questions
We've provide this page as a resource to friends in our community who would like to learn more about our dispatch team, what we do and how to best engage with us to support your needs. See the below frequently asked questions.
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, and room/apartment number, if you’re in a large building
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 or needs first aid or CPR. Do not hang up until the call-taker instructs you to do so.
What should I do if I accidentally 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.
Can I text 911 for emergency assistance?
Calling 911 by sending a text message is increasing across the United States, and efforts are underway to receive text messages at call centers nationwide. If you need emergency assistance, it is always best to call 911 if you can, and text if you can’t.
Even if text-to-911 services are available in your community, a voice call remains the best way to reach 911. If you send a text message to 911, but text-to-911 services are not available in your community, you should receive an immediate bounce-back message from the wireless provider telling you that the text message was not delivered. For more information about text-to-911, go to the Federal Communications Communications “Text to 911: What You Need to Know” page.
Should I call 911 if I think I may have been exposed to COVID-19 or other emerging diseases?
Calls should be made to 911 in time of a true emergency. Do call 911 if you develop symptoms requiring emergency assistance such as:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
If you think you have been exposed to the Coronavirus or other emerging diseases, call your healthcare provider for medical advice. If you do not have a healthcare provider, contact your local health department for instructions.
If it is available in your area, call 211/311/411 for general information about how your community is addressing any emerging diseases.
How can people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing reach 911 for help?
Many deaf and hard of hearing callers must still use a teletypewriter (TTY) text telephone device or a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) to contact 911. Invented in the 1960s, these devices are cumbersome and slow to operate.
Some PSAPs can now accept text-to-911, in which you text a message to 911 from a mobile device instead of calling. Data from 2021 indicate that more than half of PSAPs are enabled for text-to-911, with a lot of variation among states.
For more information on access to emergency services for the deaf and hard-of-hearing where you are, visit the National Association of the Deaf or visit the voluntary Text-to-911 Registry maintained by the Federal Communications Commission.
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 call 911. However, calls to 911 on phones without active service do not deliver the caller’s location to the 911 call center, and the call center cannot call these phones back to find out the caller’s location or the nature of the emergency. If disconnected, the 911 center has no way to call back the caller.
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 911 call centers are required to find out 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. It is recommended that parents remove the phone’s battery before giving these phones to children.
How can I reach 911 in a different state, county or city?
With few exceptions, 911 calls cannot be transferred to other towns, cities or states. The best option to obtain emergency assistance in a different state, county or city is to dial the 10-digit phone number for law enforcement in the community where assistance is needed. Those numbers can be found on the local law enforcement agency’s websites.
For agencies and organizations who have national call centers (e.g., suicide hot lines, poison control) and wish to contact the appropriate local 911 call center, a list of 10-digit numbers for each of the approximately 6,000 call centers is available. Access to this list is limited for security reasons, and there may be a charge for access to the list, as it is maintained at significant expense.
If you would like to contact the organization that maintains this database, please contact the staff of the National 911 Program at email@example.com.
How can I get a copy of a 911 call?
911 call centers save 911 calls, and the amount of time they are required to save them varies from one state to another. To contact the local 911 center responsible for answering calls from a particular location, visit the National Association of State 911 Administrators site and select the state in which the 911 call was placed.
The person responsible for operating the state’s 911 system will be identified, and they should know who you should talk to at your local 911 call center, to discuss how to obtain a copy of a 911 call.
How do I place a "test" call to make sure 911 works for me?
Test calls confirm that your local 911 service can receive your 911 call and has the correct location information.
Test calls can be scheduled by contacting your local 911 call center via its non-emergency phone number. To contact the local 911 center responsible for answering calls from your location, visit the National Association of State 911 Administrators site and select the state where you live to find your 911 administrator.
The person responsible for operating the state’s 911 system will be identified, and they should know who you should talk to at your local 911 call center, to schedule a day and time for test calls.
How do I know my local 911 has the correct address for my home or business?
How do I ensure that first responders will know my house number?
In an emergency, police, fire and rescue workers depend on house numbers to find YOU as quickly as possible. Finding your home – especially at night- can be challenging if address numbers are unreadable, hidden, unlighted or have missing numbers, and may delay emergency responders from getting to you as quickly as possible.
Are your house numbers visible from the street?
Are they set on a background of contrasting color?
If your house is hidden from the street, are your numbers attached to a visible fence, mailbox or gate?
Is your home identified with your house number?
If you live on a corner, does your house number face the street named in your address?
If you answered “NO” to any of these questions, please refer to the suggestions below to make sure your house numbers are easy to read and to FIND.
- Numbers need to be visible from the street. The recommended size is at least 5 inches high.
- Numbers should be placed on or beside the front door. If your door is not easily seen from the street, put the numbers on a post, fence or tree at the driveway entrance so they can be seen clearly from the street.
- Numbers on a residence should be placed near a porch light for easy visibility.
- Numbers on the mailbox should be placed on contrasting background with a reflective coating on the numbers for easy visibility at night.
- Prune any bushes, tree limbs or other growth that has covered your house numbers near your home and mailbox.
- Your house numbers should be placed on both sides of the mailbox.
- If several mailboxes are together at the driveway (due to several residences at that location), make sure your residence is marked with your address numbers.