The three digit telephone number 911 has been designated as the “Universal Emergency Number” for citizens throughout the United States to request emergency assistance. It was first established in 1968 yet there are still many people who are unaware of how it actually works when that number is called for help.
As a result, the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office is providing the following information to help the public understand the process of calling “911” and how that process works to provide the assistance requested by any citizen.
“When you dial 911, there are numerous things that are going on of which you, as a citizen, may not be aware. This will guide you through the process and help you to understand,” said Capt. Ken DeFoor. “When you dial 911, the 911 dispatcher needs to be able to get accurate information from you so that it does not delay response to the situation and how to best approach the situation you are calling about.”
Callers will typically be asked the following:
- Where – This is the address of where the situation is happening. This is the first question ask so that if the 911 Dispatcher is disconnected from the call we will be able to send help to that location.
- What – What is going on that caused you to call 911?
- Your phone number
- Who is involved?
- When did it occur?
- Often, callers will be asked why the incident being reported occurred.
- What is the description of the person(s) involved, what were they wearing, what type and color of vehicle were they driving and are there any distinguishing marks or stickers that would make that vehicle more identifiable.
Why are so many questions being asked instead of sending help?
A big common misconception is that when the 911 Dispatcher is taking time to ask all these questions that it is delaying help to the situation. During an emergency, as the 911 Dispatcher is asking questions and entering the information into the computer, the other 911 Dispatchers are seeing the information on their screen and sending help while the one remains on the phone with the caller, continually updating the information for the others as help is on the way.
What if you call 911 by mistake?
If you call 911 by mistake, do not hang up. Stay on the line and explain that you do not actually have an emergency. If you hang up without talking to the 911 dispatcher, they must try to make contact with the caller to make sure there is not an emergency. This could involve dispatching a deputy to your home or place of business to make sure everything is okay.
Is it okay to let my child play with an old phone that has a disconnected service?
This is only okay if the battery has been removed. Cell phones that have been disconnected or that do not have any useable minutes on them are still able to call 911. The sheriff’s office dispatch center receives hundreds of calls each year that tie up 911 dispatchers because of children playing with cell phone with no active service.
“Your 911 law enforcement dispatchers are there to assist anyone with a true emergency, so it is important that you be aware of the process and procedures that are in motion to assist you when a call is made,” DeFoor said. “Allowing anyone to play with a telephone and to call 911 just to see if it works or for fun can tie up an emergency line, putting someone else in a life-threatening situation who may actually need help or putting a first responder in danger by running an emergency call when there actually is no emergency.”