It’s a horrifying moment that you hope will never happen to you, but it helps to be prepared just in case. We’re talking, of course, about calling 911 or your emergency number equivalent. If you need to talk to a 911 dispatcher, what do you say?
When you call 911 you should then clearly state your emergency as well as provide your name, address, and a callback phone number. If the 911 dispatcher has any follow up questions try your best to answer them in a clear concise manner.
In today’s article, we’ll talk about all the ins and outs of making an emergency 911 call, including what to say, what information to provide, and how long you should stay on the line. Make sure you keep reading!
Table of Contents
What to Tell 911 When You Call
As we touched on in the intro, when you call 911, you’ll always hear a dispatcher start the conversation the same way.
They’ll say, “911, what’s your emergency?”
How do you answer? Let’s go over the information you must provide on a 911 call.
Before you share any other information, you want to answer the question the dispatcher just asked you. That is, you want to explain what your emergency is.
When you’re calling 911, it’s easy to feel panicked and hysterical. This can affect how easy it is for you to think and how clearly you answer.
Take a deep breath and express the emergency in clear, concise terms. For example, if your home was burning, you’d tell the dispatcher, “my house is on fire!”
If you had a medical emergency, then you could say, “My wife stopped breathing” or “my child fell down the stairs and they won’t wake up.”
You can also say, “someone is trying to break into my house” or “there’s someone in my home.”
The dispatcher needs this information to determine which emergency services they’ll deploy, such as the fire department or the police department.
Once the dispatcher knows the nature of the emergency, they’ll ask you for more information, such as your name.
Ideally, the dispatcher is hoping for a first and last name, but even a first name is better than nothing for now.
As we talked about in another recent blog post, you can decline to give your name if you’d rather remain anonymous for any reason.
The dispatcher will also request your location. This may or may not be your home address; that depends on where the incident occurred.
What if you don’t know your exact location? For example, you might have gotten in a car accident and you’re on the side of the road, but you’re not exactly sure where.
You should try to describe your location as much as you can, providing information on nearby landmarks that you can see.
If you read our blog, then you might recall how 911 operators can use your smartphone service provider and cellphone towers to ping your location.
That said, the accuracy of this can sometimes be lacking depending on the availability of phone towers.
Your Phone Number
The last bit of information that a 911 dispatcher will request of you is a phone back number. They want your number in case they have to call you back.
If you’re like most people you use a smart phone. Have you ever wondered if Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant can call 911? I wrote an entire article answering that and more, check it out by clicking that link.
Can You Ask 911 Questions?
What if you have questions for the 911 dispatcher?
You can ask 911 questions, but you should still let them ask you all their questions first.
Time is of the essence after a crime or incident occurs. The dispatcher, as we said before, is trying to gather all relevant information on your case to relay it to police and/or the local fire department.
Interrupting that process only delays how long it takes for help to reach you.
Save your questions for after you provide the above information.
How Long Should You Stay on the Line When Calling 911?
You might rush to get off the phone when making personal calls because let’s be real, who really likes talking on the phone anymore? However, you cannot have that same attitude when making a 911 call.
The call is going to take as long as it takes. That may not be the answer you were hoping for, but it’s not like the dispatcher will tell you that emergency services are on the way and then hang up.
They’ll stay on the line with you until emergency services arrive. During this time, the dispatcher is updating those emergency services about your status.
The dispatcher may provide information to you that can often save your life.
For example, if your home is on fire, they’ll instruct you to get away from the smoke and fire.
If you say you want to go back into the house to get something (or even someone in the case of a pet), you’ll be dissuaded from doing so.
At the very least, the dispatcher will keep you calm during what is a very stressful moment of your life. They can keep you talking if you’re injured, but in some cases, you don’t have to say anything.
If an intruder is in your home, for instance, you’re not expected to speak.
Being a 911 dispatcher can be a stressful job, and spending the majority of your working hours with callers in crisis can be draining. I wrote an article all about why 911 dispatchers can be rude on this site. If you’re interested, check it out.
What If You Get Disconnected During a 911 Call? What Happens?
What happens if you were on the phone with 911 but you lose your connection, your service drops, or your phone battery dies?
You know that if you call 911 again that you’ll get a different dispatcher, and then you’ll have to relay all your information again, which is a waste of precious time you don’t really have.
Well, remember when you were asked to provide a contact number to the original dispatcher you spoke to?
That’s a callback number, as you’ll recall, that’s designed for usage in just these very scenarios.
The dispatcher will be able to call you back and then stay on the line with you until emergency services get there. Well, unless your phone is dead, then they won’t be able to reach you.
I wrote an entire article about what to say if 911 calls you. Click the link to check it out.
When you need to call 911, it’s important to take a breath, stay calm, and speak slowly.
Clearly explain what has happened and provide as much information to the dispatcher as possible, including your name, your location, and your phone number.
Help will be on the way shortly!