What is 9-1-1?

9-1-1 is the number most people in the U.S. (and some international countries) contact to get help in a police, fire or medical emergency. A 9-1-1 call or text is delivered over specialized networks to the appropriate 9-1-1 public safety answering point (PSAP). A licensed 9-1-1 Telecommunicator answers the call or text and then first responders are dispatched to the emergency.

Who pays for 9-1-1?

In most areas each household or business pays a small monthly fee for 9-1-1 service on each telephone or mobile device line that appears on their bill. There is no charge for contacting 9-1-1. However, medical responder agencies dispatched through 9-1-1 may charge for taking someone to the hospital; this is a separate ambulance charge, not a 9-1-1 charge.

When should you use 9-1-1?

9-1-1 is only to be used in life-threatening, emergency situations. An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police/sheriff, the fire department or an ambulance. If you are ever in doubt of whether a situation is an emergency you should contact 9-1-1. It’s better to be safe and let the 9-1-1 Telecommunicator determine if you need emergency assistance.

Do not call 9-1-1:

  • for information
  • for sports scores
  • for weather reports
  • when you’re bored and just want to talk
  • for utility outages
  • for your pet
  • as a prank

If you contact 9-1-1 by mistake, do not disconnect. Tell the Telecommunicator what happened so they know there really isn’t an emergency.

What about 9-1-1 prank calls?

It’s a prank call when someone contacts 9-1-1 for a joke or contacts 9-1-1 and disconnects the call or text. Prank calls not only waste time and money, but can also be dangerous. If 9-1-1 lines or Telecommunicators are busy with prank calls, someone with a real emergency may not be able to get the help they need. In most places, it’s against the law to make prank 9-1-1 calls, contacting 9-1-1 repeatedly without cause, or making threats to the Telecommunicator.

How do I make a 9-1-1 call?

  • In an emergency, dial or text 9-1-1 on your phone. It’s FREE! You can use any kind of phone: landline, wireless, cordless, VoIP, or pay phone.
  • Stay calm, speak loudly and clearly.
  • Be prepared to give the location of the emergency – the Telecommunicator may not receive location information with the text or call.
  • State the nature of the emergency: fire, medical, police.
  • Give the 9-1-1 Telecommunicator your name and call back phone number.
  • Answer the 9-1-1 Telecommunicator’s questions and follow their instructions.
  • Stay connected if it’s safe to do so, and don’t disconnect until the Telecommunicator tells you to.

What if a 9-1-1 caller doesn’t speak English?

9-1-1 speaks all languages! When necessary, a 9-1-1 Telecommunicator can add an interpreter from an outside service to the call. A non-English speaking caller may hear a short conversation in English and some clicking sounds as the interpreter is added to the line.

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