Using 911

911 is the number set aside by telephone companies throughout the United States to put you in touch with emergency aid authorities. The concept was established in 1937 in Great Britain. 911 was chosen as the universal emergency number in the US because it is easily remembered by most persons, and most telephone company equipment could be modified to accept the number. No coins are needed when 911 is called from a pay telephone.

When to Call
Calling 911 can save valuable time in an emergency. Some people aren't sure when to call 911. They call 911 for reasons other than emergencies. To complain about barking dogs, to ask directions, to report the power is out, or to check on road conditions.

Remember, calling 911 is for real emergency situations when you need police, fire, or an ambulance in a hurry. When people don't use 911 properly, or abuse the system making silent or abusive calls, they tie up the phone lines and make it hard for others who really need help right away to get through.

A good 911 call is clear and factual. While this may be a terrifying emotional experience for you, only the facts will help the police come to your assistance. Police records are filled with distress calls that convey terror, hysteria, and not a clue as to what or where the problem is.

Giving Good Reports
When you call 911, you can expect to answer questions which will help the dispatcher determine what is happening, what type of response is necessary, how many or much to send and other information which is deemed pertinent to the call. All callers are normally asked to answer a standard set questions which will help to type and prioritize the call, and provide responding officers with all amplifying information prior to their arrival.


Be prepared to answer various questions when calling 911 such as:
  • What is the address?
  • What are the cross streets? 
  • Is it a house, apartment or business? 
  • Is there a suite number? 
The dispatcher needs to confirm the where of a call. Be sure to give your phone number in case further information is needed. While many modern 911 systems now automatically display your address, it is still the most important piece of data you can relay. Help cannot come to you if they don't know where you are.

Nature of Problem
Be able to tell the dispatcher where you are dealing with an emergency or a non-emergency. Tell them what is happening by providing a brief description of the circumstances. It is vital to a good 911 call to get to the point. Rambling and crying will not help the police come to your rescue. Give the facts quickly and clearly.

Time Element
Be prepared to answer the following questions regarding the timeline of your emergency:
  • When did the situation you're reporting occur? 
  • Was it within the last 5 or 10 minutes? This helps the dispatcher determine the priority of any response. 
  • Did it just occur or is it a "cold" situation?
Suspect Description
If pertinent, try to tell the dispatcher what the suspect or suspects look like. Be ready to identify the sex, race, age, height, weight, hair, eyes, scars,marks, and tattoo's of the suspect. Clothing also starts top to bottom, hat, shirt, coat, pants, shoes. Be aware of if the suspected culprit was carrying anything.

Unless you are a repeat-felon, it is not likely the police know you on sight. An officer arriving to your house has no reason then to recognize that you are or aren't the "bad guy". Describing yourself can help avoid a case of mistaken identity.

Weapons or Drugs/Alcohol

Be prepared to answer questions regarding the event:
  • Was there a knife, gun, bat, club? 
  • Was the person under the influence of any drug or alcohol? 
  • How were they acting?

Response Time
The response time will not be delayed by answering the questions on this page. In fact, answers to these questions often give the officer the necessary information to apprehend the suspect or suspects quickly.

In most cases, officers are dispatched while you are still on the phone. The dispatcher can relay the important information to the officers prior tot heir arrival.

Remember to remain calm and answer all the questions. Let the dispatcher control the questioning. Do not hang up until you are sure the dispatcher is finished with what they need.