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How To Call 911

This post could help save your life or someone you love. Tips from a 911 dispatcher.

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1. Ask yourself a question, is this an emergency?


If you are unsure, then call to be safe. If it is a medical concern, ask yourself whether you could safely get to a physician (i.e - common cold). If so, go by private means and leave the ambulances for callers in distress. Ambulances are meant to transport patients to hospital that require immediate medical attention or could not get to hospital otherwise. Myth: Calling for an ambulance will result in being seen quicker in the ER. This is completely false, the hospital staff will triage you with everyone else.

When calling 911 for a police matter, make sure the situation requires that the police be notified. In other words, if you are having a tiff with your neighbor because they didn't mow the lawn or take their garbage can in - call your local bylaw service. If your Wi-Fi isn't working - call your internet service provider. Avoid calling the police for trivial matters that don't constitute an emergency.

2. Whenever possible, call from a land-line phone.

Calling from a land-line expedites the process because the information associated with that address will populate for the dispatcher. The dispatcher will still require that you confirm the information in case you are calling for someone at a different address. If you call from a cellphone, the dispatcher receives a cell tower which can be reasonably far from your actual location, especially in rural areas. You may even need to provide GPS coordinates if you are in a location with few road signs or buildings, to help provide a more accurate location.

3. Know where you are.

Although this issue is discussed above, this concept needs to be reiterated. Be aware of your surroundings when leaving the home. Keep an eye out for landmark locations in case of emergency. If you don't know where you are, how is help going to find you?

4. Know why you are calling.


If someone asks you to call 911, try to find out why. The dispatcher needs basic information to provide to the first responders. Yelling "just send the help" is not helpful at all. When calling 911, the first question is "Do you need Police, Fire or Ambulance?" You should be able to answer this question. Ask the person requesting you to call 911, why they need the help or use your logic and tell the dispatcher what you see.

5. If you don't know the answer to a question, say you don't know.


If you're really unsure, tell the dispatcher you don't know. Responses such as "I'm not a doctor," or "just send the help," wastes valuable time. Do not guess your answer or try to diagnose the person needing help.

6. Try to be calm and courteous.


Calling 911 is undoubtedly a scary situation. The dispatcher understands that you are nervous, in shock, and agitated. However, this does not warrant verbal abuse. Yelling and swearing will only delay the help further and is unkind to those trying to help you. Try to remain calm and answer the questions as best you can. The dispatcher may have a lot of questions, bear with them. These questions can make all the difference in how fast the help will reach, the type of help required, and also help protect first responders.

7. Keep answers short.


At some point in the call, you will be given time to elaborate. The dispatchers have a duty to collect certain information in a timely manner. If you have extra information to provide, try to do so at the end unless the information is absolutely vital.

8. If you don't understand the language the dispatcher is speaking, state your language at the onset.


If you call 911 or an emergency service abroad, and do not speak the language, state your language. Translation services are available for the dispatchers but they can only utilize this service if they know what language you speak. Not all dispatchers are professional linguistics.

9. Don't hang up! Stay on the line.


Answering questions in an emergency situation can be understandably frustrating. However, if you hang up, the dispatcher may be missing valuable information such as the location, the problem nature, or other much needed details. Remain on the phone until you are instructed to hang up.

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