911 is meant to connect you to help in serious emergencies. Get on the line, and let the 911 dispatcher know what the emergency is. 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. If you need help for serious but less urgent issues, call a number other than 911, such as a non-emergency police or fire number.
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):'
Call if you aren’t sure. 911 should not be used for non-urgent situations, because EMTs, police, or other responders 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 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 unactivated cell phone to place the call.
Answer the dispatcher’s questions. The dispatcher will ask you to describe the emergency. Stay calm and answer any questions they have. 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 first-responders. You may need to provide information like:
Follow the dispatcher’s instructions. You should always stay on the line until the dispatcher tells you it’s ok to hang up. They may give you instructions about what to do. Follow these carefully--they can prevent further problems, and even save your life (or someone else’s). The dispatcher may give you instructions on things like:
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 may 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.
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 responders from potentially helping others who really need it. Examples of non-urgent situations include: