What to Expect… When You Call 9-1-1

911 Dispatcher answering a call

Dispatchers are trained to pull and assess information from a caller so the right level of help can be sent quickly.

Calling 9-1-1 is serious business.  We want you to call 9-1-1 to receive help for emergencies, potential emergencies, or if you are not sure if it’s an emergency.  But happens when you call for help?  What should you say? What does the person on the other line need to know?  What if you forget something?

Dispatchers are trained to pull and assess information from a caller. Expect them to guide you with questions.  They know what information they need to get first in order to ensure the right type of help arrives in a timely manner, and the best way to get the assistance you need is to answer the questions in the order they ask them.

Here’s a quick guide to help us help you:

  • If you speak another language or dialect tell us right away. At push of a button, we can connect to a translator. San Francisco has translated 9-1-1 calls in more than 170 languages.
  • Let the dispatcher know what is happening. Is there a crime in progress? Is there a fire?  Does someone need medical help? This information lets our dispatchers know what type of help you need.
  • We want to know where the situation is occurring. Provide an exact address if you know it and don’t forget the floor and apartment number if you are in a building.  Unsure of where you are?  A nearby intersection or landmark will help.
  • When did the incident occur? It is important to know if this is an active situation so our dispatchers can prepare the first responders know what to expect.
  • Let us know who is involved. We want to know if it a family member, someone you know, or a stranger.  It also helps to know if there are multiple people involved and who they are.
  • If weapon was used then let us know. Telling a dispatcher about weapons helps keep the public and first responders safe.
  • Tell us if anyone is injured. If someone is hurt, our dispatchers will ask you a series of questions to determine what type of care is needed.  Our dispatchers are also trained to provide medical instruction until a medic arrives.

It is important to remember the type of response is based on the emergency.  San Francisco’s 9-1-1 call center receives more than 3,000 calls per day.  Not every call can or should involve emergency units traveling at high speeds with lights flashing and sirens blaring.  This type of response comes with inherent risk for the public and the first responders, but is rightly reserved for life-threatening emergencies.

We hope you rarely have to call 9-1-1.  But if you you or someone else is experiencing an emergency, then keep these tips in mind.  Our 9-1-1 dispatchers will help you get the help that you need in a timely manner.

911 Dispatchers answering phones

Call 9-1-1 to receive help for emergencies, potential emergencies, or if you are not sure if it’s an emergency.

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Need some help figuring out when to call 9-1-1 check out our previous post Burning Building? Call 911. Burning Question? Call 311.  

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Posted on February 26, 2015, in 911 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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