Friday, September 12, 2008

Frequently Asked Questions About 911

Q. What if I call 911 by mistake?
A. Don't hang up!
It happens rarely but sometimes you will be connected to 911 by mistake. The Enhanced 911 Emergency System is very sensitive. If a number you are dialing has the dialing sequence 9-1-1 anywhere in the number it may inadvertently connect your call to 911. If your cordless telephone has a low battery charge, it can send random numerical signals, similar to a child pressing numbers again and again, over the phone line which can sometimes cause the switching office to connect a call to 911. The important thing is not to hang up. Simply explain to the emergency operator who answers that there is no emergency. If you do hang up, and we can't reach you when we try to call you back, a high priority emergency police response will be initiated to the address indicated on the operators computer terminal.
Even if the call is confirmed accidental, we do have to send at least 1 Police officer to actually verify that all is ok.

Q. My bedridden mother's doctor said to call an ambulance to take her to meet him at the hospital. I dial 911 for that, right?

A. Yes and No

You should ask the doctor if an emergency response is necessary. If he says yes, then by all means dial 911 at once. If not, then look up the number of a local ambulance company in the telephone directory and schedule a time for your mother to be transported. This practice will keep vital medical response resources available in the city for genuine emergencies. After all, if your brother across town suffers a heart attack a minute after you call 911 for your mother, the ambulance responding to your brother's medical emergency may be delayed because you tied up a local emergency unit for a non-emergency transport.

Q. If the person who answers my 911 call already has my phone number and address on his computer screen, why am I still asked to provide that information? Isn't that a waste of valuable time?

A. Nothing is more important than making sure that this information is correct

The telephone number and address of every call to 911 must be confirmed. Enhanced 911 is a wonderful tool, but life or death situations are much too important to rely on a computer database being 100% accurate. Your address and number will be confirmed every time you connect to a 911 center to make sure the information is correct. If it is not, Verizon will be notified to update or correct the discrepancy. Another reason is that you may be calling to report an emergency occurring at another location. A lot more time would be wasted by sending units to the wrong place. The few seconds it takes to get it right are well spent in obtaining this critical information.

Q. Because of a severe physical challenge, I communicate with a TTY (teletypewriter). Can I call 911?

A. Yes, you can!
If the answering position unit that you connect to receives a signal (such as it would if you keyed your spacebar or other key) from a TTY, the unit will automatically change to the proper answering mode. You will then be asked, with a pre-programmed message, for the type of emergency service you are requesting. Simply answer the questions you are asked through your device and help will be on the way. If, however, no signal is detected, the call will be treated as a SILENT CALL. The unit will be switched manually to the TTY mode by the person answering the call and the same pre-programmed message will be sent. If no reply is received after a short time in TTY mode. The call will be switched back to voice mode and further voice instructions will be given to you.

Q. Let's say I'm choking and cannot speak. Can I call 911?

A. That's exactly what you should do!
Your call will be handled as described in the SILENT CALL procedure. (see answer to previous question) After we determine that you are not using a TTY, you will be asked to punch numbers on your telephone keypad to tell us what you need.

Q. I called 911 to request an ambulance for my daughter. Two minutes later a Fire Engine showed up. A few minutes later the ambulance arrived and took my daughter to the hospital. Did you make a mistake?

A. No, we sent what you needed!
Some medical emergencies are more time critical than others. Your daughter must have needed help as quickly as possible. The firefighters who came are at least first responders, some may even be EMTs. Depending on the situation and location, the fire department or police may be sent to make sure that some help or treatment can be administered before the paramedics arrive.

Q. I called 911 to ask about donating to a Fire Department fundraising drive for cancer. (A very worthy cause) The man who answered rudely switched on a recording telling me to look up the business number. When I called back on that number the same man answered the phone! Why couldn't he have simply answered my question instead of having me go through all that?

A. 911 is for emergency calls only!


  1. Thanks for this, Alison. Danged good info and rarely seen elsewhere.

  2. I hope people will read this and learn about 911.

  3. YAY thank you so much-you are inspiring me to do a similar post.....and yes, yes, YES 911 does not mean 411(re your last q/a)!!!!!