Out-of-State Emergency? Calling 911 in another state


If you live on the other side of the country from a family member or friend and they have an emergency during one of your regular chats, how can you help them? 

In order to call 911 in another state, you will need the 10-digit police, fire, or EMS agency phone number for the local city, town, or community in which you are intending to reach emergency services. Making a 911 call in your own state only connects you with local services, and it’s not always possible to transfer a call.

In today’s article, we’ll talk about the logistics of calling 911 for someone in a different state. Even though everyone in the United States dials those three same numbers–911–that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to route calls across the country. Make sure you keep reading! 

How Do You Call 911 for Someone in Another State?

You were on the phone with your elderly mother in Florida while you were clear across the country. She starts complaining first of chest pains and then having a difficult time breathing.

You tell her to hang up and call 911, but she’s faint and growing weaker by the minute.

Or perhaps you were catching up with an old friend who lives far away when suddenly you hear shattered glass, banging sounds, aggressive voices, and then the line goes dead.

These things do happen, and when they do, the distance can make you feel completely helpless. How can you help?

Picking up the phone and dialing 911 alone is not enough. You also need a 10-digit phone number for local law enforcement in your friend or family member’s area. Here’s why.

But what happens if you call 911 and it goes to voicemail? I wrote an entire article on what to do if your 911 call goes to voicemail. Click the link to check it out.

911 Calls Use Local PSAPs

A PSAP is short for public safety answering points, which is a call center that staffs operators who answer 911 calls.

Even though you’re not required to type in an area code when making a 911 call, you’re still connected to a local PSAP. How?

Well, part of it has to do with your phone company. The company knows where your number’s area code is and routes it to your local PSAP.

Thus, if you’re in Pittsburgh, you’ll get a 911 operator who’s near Pittsburgh. The police and fire department are closer to you and can get to you faster.

Even if you traveled to New York, if you dialed 911 in New York, you’d still get connected to the Pittsburgh PSAP.

That’s why you need that 10-digit phone number for local law enforcement in your friend or family member’s area. Have you ever wondered if 911 operators are law enforcement?

I wrote an entire article answering just that, click the link to check it out.

Rather than dial 911 for them, you should call a 10-digit phone number. Law enforcement in their area can put your call through to the area PSAP, and then you can get your loved one help.

Can the dispatcher redirect your call to the correct PSAP?

Okay, but before today, you had never even heard of PSAPs, and you have no idea what the 10-digit phone number is for your friend or family member’s location. 

Wouldn’t it just be a lot easier and faster for you to call your local PSAP, speak to a 911 operator, and have them redirect you all the way to sunny Florida or elsewhere in the country?

It would be easier and faster, but that doesn’t mean it’s possible.

There’s no vast interconnecting network of PSAPs. A 911 operator has no ability to instantly connect to another PSAP across the country despite their job title. 

Thus, if you dial 911 and speak to your local operator, they’re going to spend time on the phone or researching online until they find the 10-digit phone number you need. 

However, there’s a difference between the 911 operator doing this and you doing it yourself. The operator is doing life-saving work taking calls about house fires, burglaries, domestic disputes, car accidents, you name it.

You’re not. 

You can take the two minutes to research the 10-digit number without anyone else’s life being on the line but your friend or loved one.

If the operator does the same, then a lot of people who need their services cannot get them for as long as they’re on the phone with you. 

You should do the right thing and research the information yourself. It’s one thing if you absolutely cannot find what you’re looking for. 

However, in a situation like that, you’re better off calling your non-emergency police number. 

We know, your situation is an emergency, as your friend or family member might be in a life-threatening situation.

However, on your side of the country, there is no emergency. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but it is what it is. That’s why you should call the non-emergency police line instead. 

When you dial 911, your phone company looks at your area code to determine which public safety answering point or PSAP to connect you to. 

Even if you travel clear across the country, your PSAP doesn’t change. Dialing 911 when you’re in Florida if your home is in New Jersey will still connect you to a New Jersey PSAP.

It’s for that reason that you can’t dial 911 if an out-of-state friend or relative has an emergency. You need a 10-digit phone number for their local law enforcement, who can patch you in to the local PSAP. 

Find that phone number on your own rather than call your local PSAP and ask them to help. You’re detracting from life-saving services!

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