What to Expect When You Call 9-1-1

9-1-1 telecommunicators are trained to get the most important information as quickly as possible in order to get help to the scene in the timeliest manner. Do your best to stay calm and answer all questions.

Allow the telecommunicator to ask you all the questions they need before you hang up or leave the phone. Your answers will help the call taker understand your situation, and telecommunicators can assist you with your emergency until the appropriate police, fire, or medical units arrive.

First Question: What is the location of the emergency?

Please provide an address, intersection, mile marker or, in the case of a wilderness or park area, the name of a trail or a landmark nearby.

A growing number of people use cell phones instead of traditional land line phones when calling 9-1-1. Telecommunicators are unable to receive a specific location from a cell phone call. It is important to know your location during an emergency so that you can provide that detail to emergency services.

Second Question: What is your emergency?

Telecommunicators will want to know if the emergency requires police, fire, or medical response.


If your emergency requires police response, you may be asked:

  • Is anyone intoxicated or under the influence of drugs?
  • Can you provide a description of suspects and/or a vehicle involved?
    - Describe a person or suspect starting from the top of the head: skin color, gender, height, hair color, eye color, facial hair, physical build; color and type of jacket or coat, shirt, belt, pants, shoes, etc.
    - Describe a vehicle by color; year; make; body style; other identifying features such as dents, scratches, stickers, spoilers, bike racks, etc; and license plate information

  • Does anyone have any weapons? If so, what type of weapons and where are they?

If your emergency requires medical response, you may be asked:

  • What is the problem and what exactly happened? The answer to this question will determine what type of medical problem is happening.
  • The age of the person having the problem and their status (i.e. conscious and breathing)
  • Depending on the problem, you will be asked questions that provide additional information for the responding medical personnel.

If your emergency requires fire department response, you may be asked:

  • Are smoke or flames visible?
  • If flames are visible, are any structures threatened?
  • If there are flames, smoke or odors within a structure, has it been evacuated?
  • Do you know the source of the smoke or fire?
  • If it is a business or a garage, what types of chemicals are in the building?

Always Follow Telecommunicator Directions

All 9-1-1 telecommunicators have been trained to provide instructions during child birth, CPR, Heimlich Maneuver and other instructions that can aid in saving someone's life. In other emergency situations, telecommunicators may ask that you stay on the line or they may tell you to leave the residence.

Calling 9-1-1 for a Mental Health Crisis

If you have a loved one with a serious mental health condition, there may be times when they become a danger to themselves or to others. Though it can be a difficult decision for you, police intervention may become necessary for the safety of all involved. You can request police respond without lights or sirens and they will follow protocol to keep everyone safe. Our officers and fire personnel have been trained to properly respond to mental health situations and are able to provide you with support throughout the event as well as after.

Here are some tips to help you stay calm and clearly explain the crisis to 9-1-1 dispatchers (PDF).

Calling 9-1-1 By Mistake

If you call 9-1-1- by mistake, please do not hang up. If you happen to call 9-1-1 by mistake, remain on the line, state there is no emergency, and provide any requested information. This saves valuable time for the Center in having to call back and confirm there is not an emergency.

9-1-1 Practice for Kids

We are more than happy to assist you in teaching your children the proper way to call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency. They should practice learning and saying their address, phone number, and parents' names. If you wish for them to make a practice call, please call JPD Community Services Sergeant at 910-938-6406 for permission to set up the practice call. You never know when an emergency will arise and a call to 9-1-1 is needed.