911 allows you to contact the appropriate help in all and any emergencies. Dial 9-1-1 and let the dispatcher know where the emergency is first. Answer any questions they have as best you can, and stay on the line. Follow any instructions they give you while waiting for help to arrive.



Make sure the situation requires 911 assistance. 911 is meant to help in situations involving medical emergencies, fires, or crimes in progress. If someone is hurt, injured, or facing another emergency, don’t waste time, but do think about whether or not you need this type of assistance. Times when it makes sense to call 911 include (but are not limited to):[1]'

  • A fire has started and is out of control.
  • A burglary, assault, or other crime is in progress.
  • There has been a car crash or other accident.
  • Someone is seriously injured (bleeding severely, in shock, etc.)
  • Someone has suffered a medical emergency (like a heart attack, stroke, or seizure)

Call if you aren’t sure. 911 should not be used for non-urgent situations, because EMT's, Police Officers, or other responding personnel may be needed elsewhere. However, if you aren’t sure if your situation requires 911, go ahead and call. It’s better to be safe than sorry.


Dial/Text 911 from any phone. To speak with a 911 dispatcher, simply punch in the numbers “9-1-1” on any working phone and stay on the line. You can even use an deactivated cell phone to place the call.

  • 911 works in the US and Canada. If you are in another location, you will need to call a different emergency number.
  • Texting capabilities have been a growing thing and are now available to the public. However, if you are able, please call. The information will be transmitted much faster through a phone call.


Answer the dispatcher’s questions. The dispatcher will ask you to describe the emergency. Stay calm and answer any questions they have, as best and accurately as you can. Be assured that the dispatcher is actively working to send help to you. Even if it feels like they are wasting time, the questions are meant to get you the help you need as quickly as possible. They have usually already dispatched help, and need to ask more questions to provide updates to responding personnel. You may need to provide information like:[4]

  • Your address and/or other details about your location?
  • How many people are involved?
  • A description of what happened? How it happened?
  • Clarification about who needs the help?
  • Details of the problem? (i.e., whether or not an injured person is unconscious or bleeding)
  • Whether you are safe or still in danger?

Follow the dispatcher’s instructions. You should always stay on the line until the dispatcher tells you it’s okay to hang up. They may give you instructions about what to do. Follow those instructions carefully, they can prevent further problems, and could even save someone's life (or someone else’s). The dispatcher may give you instructions on things like:

  • Beginning first aid
  • Performing CPR
  • Moving to a safer location
  • Other things to prepare/assist responding personnel 

Follow through if you call by mistake. If you or someone else (like a child) accidentally call 911, don’t hang up the phone. If you just hang up, the dispatcher will assume that an actual emergency is going on and send assistance. Instead, stay on the line and calmly tell the dispatcher that the call was a mistake. You will NOT get in trouble for an accidental call. 


Don’t call 911 for the wrong reasons. When a genuine emergency is at hand, you shouldn’t feel shy about calling 911. However, using 911 for non-urgent situations bogs down the system and keeps EMS, Police, and Fire from potentially helping others who really need it. Examples of non-urgent situations include:[8]

  • The power is out (get in touch with the power company instead)
  • A fire hydrant is broken (call a fire station’s non-emergency number)
  • A pipe has burst (call a plumber or water company)
  • When you need a ride to a doctor for an appointment (call them first and ask about transportation options)
  • Pet problems (contact a vet instead)
  • As a prank. (Remember, phones can sometimes be tracked and located by dispatch.)