911 Response: How long does it take?

The time it takes 911 to reach you can be the difference between life and death. When you need an ambulance to your residence, or current location, for something such as a car crash at highway speeds, you do not want to wait 10 minutes or more to have help arrive to get the door opened with the Jaws of Life. So, how long does it take 911 to come?

The average time it takes for 911 to come in the US is between 5 to 6 minutes in a city and 14 minutes in rural areas. Most areas in Canada are expected to wait up to 15 minutes. These times are for level 1 incidents happening in real-time, not the other levels that do not require immediate responses.

There are so many variables when it comes to the average response time for police, and other emergency responders, that the location you live in needs to be broken down. The speed of the response times will depend upon your location, situation, and needs. Let’s take a deeper look into this process to better understand the situation.

How Long Does It Take for 911 to Come?

The variables involved in the actual response times will vary drastically. 

For most areas, they will shoot for a response time between 5 and 6 minutes for level one emergencies, but it could take hours, or even days, for a neighbor complaint or something that is not life-threatening at the moment. 

To understand this, you will need to take a quick lesson on how the 911 system works.

Ever wonder if 911 dispatchers are considered first responders? I answer that and more in another article on the site, click the link to check it out.

Time to Call to 911

The first step in the process is always the call. Whether you are the caller or someone is calling for you, 911 will immediately ask what the nature of the call is.

This first call will go to the 1st PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point.) It is not a universal place for all states. 

Each specific state will have numerous designated areas that the call goes to. It will usually be a location within your county.

If you live in a large town, it will likely be within your city limits. At this point, the operator answering your call will give a number to your situation. They will transfer you to a 2nd PSAP if needed.

This is the location closest to you that 911 emergency responders will come from. Often, the responders can be dispatched from the first location you call.

Still, there are times when the call will need to be fielded to a site closer to you, such as in the correct county or location of a large town. 

Real-time emergencyPSAP1 will dispatch emergency responders
Real-time emergencyPSAP1 transfer to PSAP2 that dispatches emergency responders 
Non-emergency callsPSAP1 will transfer to PSAP2 or will personally send a non-emergency dispatch to the pertinent emergency responder needed

Now, let’s explain the designation of the emergency.

The Designation Of The Emergency

The type of emergency will be the sole designation of the dispatched emergency responders and how pressing the dispatch order will be. This may seem confusing, and it can be when you are the one in the middle of an emergency. 

Let’s look at this in more detail:

  • Level 1 – True real-time emergency will get the highest priority and the fastest response times. Examples of this would be an armed crime in progress, rape in progress, a heart attack in progress, etc. You can see that level 1 emergencies are severe issues in progress.
  • Level 2 – Emergency that is rated as level two are also true emergencies, but ones that can wait behind the level ones in the area. Examples of this would be a missing child, murder being reported, or a fall down the stairs. These can be serious, but they can wait a few minutes longer.
  • Level 3 – Most areas consider this level to be minor emergency types. Ones that can wait hours, or even days, before they respond. Examples would be a complaint against a neighbor, a loose animal in the area, or even a trip and fall at home. Some emergencies will be placed behind level 1 and 2 calls. In contrast, others will be pushed to the bottom because they are not a priority call.

The 911 dispatcher will place your call at the appropriate level, and the dispatch times will need to be judged accordingly.

Also, I wrote an entire article on what to do if your 911 call goes to voicemail. Click the link to check it out.

You can always bet that if you are hiding in a closet because of an armed intruder while placing the emergency call, the police response time will be fast, as will the rest of the emergency responders needed. 

Answering the question of how long it takes 911 to respond is based on several factors. It can be said that the overall average response time for level 1 calls is 7 minutes, with the average throughout the nation being between 4 and 10 minutes.

This is not to say that your specific area has a faster response time average or worse.

This means that your area will have an average response to each various call. If the emergency responders are being hammered with calls, it will take longer, regardless of the level of the call.

If they are sitting around twiddling their thumbs, it will be a faster emergency response time. So many factors, so few across-the-board numbers.