Blog Archives

Making the Right Call

When someone dials 9-1-1 it’s for a medical or fire emergency, or a crime in progress. These are very serious and scary situations, and our City’s 9-1-1 dispatchers are experts at sending the right kind of help to the right location–fast.

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.

But sometimes people call 9-1-1 for things that are not emergencies, like reporting stolen property or someone loitering. Although these types of situations are serious and should be reported, calling 9-1-1 for non-life and non-property threatening situations ties up our 9-1-1 phone lines and makes it harder for real emergency calls to get through. So, if you need Police assistance but are not experiencing a crime in progress, please call the San Francisco Police Department’s non-emergency phone line: 415-553-0123. Please note that this line is answered as quickly as possible—after calls to 9-1-1. If your call is not answered immediately, it’s because our 9-1-1 dispatchers are handling priority emergency medical, fire, or criminal activity calls that can result in lives being saved and crimes being stopped.

From time to time our City’s 9-1-1 dispatchers also receive calls for things that are not emergencies like reporting a blocked driveway or how to access a City service. For these circumstances, it’s best to dial 3-1-1 where expert staff can provide information on a variety of non-emergency City services, both over the phone and on the 311 app. And just like 9-1-1 and 415-553-0123, they are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Before you dial 9-1-1 keep in mind the nature of your call. Is it an emergency that requires immediate medical, fire, or police response? If so, or even if you’re not sure, dial 9-1-1. Is it something that should be reported to the Police but is not a crime in progress? Then please call the San Francisco Police Department non-emergency line at 415-553-0123. And if you have general questions or need to report a situation needing city services, call 3-1-1. You could be saving someone’s life by making the right call when it comes to dialing 9-1-1.

The San Francisco 9-1-1 Dispatch Center is a division within the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, which leads the City in planning, preparedness, communication, response, and recovery for daily emergencies, large-scale citywide events, and major disasters. To learn more about the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management visit

Matthew Roybal: Dispatcher of the Year 2013

Matthew Roybal, San Francisco Dispatcher of the Year

Matthew Roybal, San Francisco Dispatcher of the Year

The people and the technology… These are two of the reasons that Matthew likes coming to work every day.  On July 6, 2013 Public Safety Dispatcher Matthew Roybal was standing watch on the radio working with fire fighters and paramedics to respond to emergencies around the city.  On the radio the pace is quick and professional.   It was 11:28 am and things were about to pick up.

A Boeing 747 had crashed on the runway- slides were deployed and passengers were coming out.   At this point, Matthew and his fellow dispatchers didn’t have a full picture of what was going on.  But he knew he had to get first responder units moving fast.

As the dispatcher on the Command radio channel it was Matthew’s responsibility to coordinate and account for all the units that were coming from San Francisco to the airport.  As more information came in about the crash, more units from the city were sent to SFO. Matthew was admittedly was nervous and tense but his training and experience helped prepare him.  He also had great support system as fellow dispatchers helped out so he could focus on the radio.  Everything worked like it was supposed to and like with any emergency it was a team effort.

After hours on the radio keeping track of his fellow first responders, Matthew was finally relieved after the last unit came back to San Francisco.

Public Safety Dispatcher Matthew Roybal was calm and professional during the tragic Asiana plane crash.  His actions were not only a credit to himself but also his fellow dispatchers.  For these reasons, Matthew was selected by his peers as San Francisco’s Dispatcher of the Year.


San Francisco celebrates National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week to showcase the important lifesaving performed by our 9-1-1 professionals.  Dispatchers act as the communications hub for emergency services, and must quickly assess situations and send appropriate help.  San Francisco’s 9-1-1 Dispatchers manage more than 1.2 million emergency and non-emergency calls annually.   For more information on 9-1-1 in San Francisco visit