Are 911 Calls Recorded? And, how long are the recordings kept?

There are tons of videos online of recorded 911 calls. At least, they seem like they are recorded, and it may seem odd that the emergency services would record emergency calls and keep them somewhere. If you have recently called 911, you might wonder – are 911 calls actually recorded, or is that something you only see on television?

Most 911 calls are recorded and they are kept on file. However, the laws for public access vary by state. There are some locations where you need a court order to look at the specifics of a 911 call, such as the name, address, and the number of the person who made a particular 911 call.

If you’re interested in learning more about 911 calls and if they’re recorded, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn more about if these calls are public records, how long they are on file if so, and why they are made public. The more you know, the better you can understand where the calls go. I’m here to help you understand the situation.

Are 911 Calls Public Record? 

If you make a 911 call, it goes on file for public record. This statement means that the file is recorded by a public agency. If you want to access the 911 call recording, you can. However, there are a few places you need to go before you can listen.

Here are the places you should go before you can hear a 911 call on public record:

  • Go to a government agency: Head to a local agency and ask if you can look at a record. They will fill you in on the requirements. 
  • Look on state-run websites: Many state-run websites will have access to recordings of 911 calls. Search for the one you want.

You should have access to one of these locations. Every state is different in how private 911 calls are. In some states, it doesn’t take much effort to access them. In others, it takes a lot of effort to prove you should be able to listen to the call.

I know it might seem terrifying to have a 911 call as a public record. How long are these calls on file in the public system?

Why Are 911 Calls Made Public?

I know it might be confusing that 911 calls are made public. These calls happen in private moments and contain personal material. Why are 911 calls put on public record? Is there a reason for this process?

The biggest reason why 911 calls are made public is to hold the responder accountable for their actions. They must provide as much help to the person on the phone as possible. If something goes wrong, the recording is handy to defend all parties involved in the trouble.

Evidence is everything. A 911 call helps prove what happened in an evening and how the situation can best be handled.

Also, click this link if you’ve ever wondered if you can FaceTime with 911, I wrote another article answering that question and more!

How Long Are 911 Calls On File? 

Although public, 911 calls are only on file for a time. A public location can’t keep 911 calls on file forever. Eventually, they will disappear from the system. How long are 911 calls on file? Where do they go after they leave the system?

Most 911 calls are on file for, at most, one year. Some are on file for ninety days. This time allows:

  • Public access: The 911 calls are on file to allow the public, including those involved in the accident or crime, to hear.
  • Police access: Police may need to hear the tape to handle the crime.
  • Evidence: There may be evidence hidden inside the tape. The dispatcher needs to handle the case well.

Once these are out of the way, the 911 call isn’t necessary. If you want to obtain the call before this time, ensure you give your local government agency a call. They will provide the 911 call and ensure you hear the recording before it is taken off the file forever. They don’t last forever for the privacy of the caller.

If you make a 911 call, you relay private information over the phone. This call is recorded and added to the public record. These calls don’t last more than a year in the system and come in handy. The recording helps the police and other people understand what happened during the call.

We hope this information was helpful! I know it seems scary that 911 calls are recorded, but it’s for an excellent reason. If a dispatcher doesn’t help you, the recording could prove your case.