Frequently Asked Questions
We have what is called "E911" or enhanced 911 capabilities at our center. That means that our computer-aided dispatch system has a link to the local telephone company's computer.When we answer the phone, a computer display shows the billing name, address, and number of the telephone on the other end.
Computers are wonderful, but not infallible. They do make mistakes, so we must ask just to make sure. Another possibility, is that many people call from a neighbor's house, so we don't want to send help to the wrong place and waste precious time.
We ask questions pertaining to the location of an incident and descriptions of vehicles and people involved. Often we ask for descriptions of the victim's clothing as well as the suspect's clothing. This is to make sure that the officers who respond know which people are which. At times we also need to know if a crime is still occurring, or if it has occurred some time ago, in order to judge if the suspects are still near the crime scene, or if the officers need to go searching for them.
In an emergency, you are likely to be highly upset or even frantic. But remember that most often while you are speaking to the call-taker, help is being dispatched, and may be enroute to your location. Sometimes the call-taker will keep you on the phone to try to keep you calm and occupied until help arrives. Sometimes they will even tell you what you can do to help the victim until help arrives. The best thing you can do is to be responsive and don't try to fight the call-taker or hang up on him or her. If you've hung up before all the necessary information is relayed, you may delay the arrival of help!
We try to be as efficient and quick as possible. The only time we repeat questions is when the caller is too frantic to be understood. We understand that when a crisis occurs it's human nature to get upset, but when you scream, cry, or curse at us and we can't get the necessary information, you are just delaying the help you desperately need. Try to speak clearly and answer our questions completely.
Anything that has just occurred or is still in progress that could be life threatening. A medical emergency which needs an ambulance, a fire, or any incident which has injuries or unknown injuries.
Anything that has occurred prior (like yesterday, days before, or even weeks before!), the responsible party is gone, a report for insurance purposes only, or if no person or property is in danger.
Yes. You get connected to 911, however, when you are connected through the operator we do not get your address or phone number on our enhanced 911 screens. (Many of us did not have 911 when we grew up and we would call the operator who would then transfer us to police, fire, or ambulance when needed.) By not dialing 911 it slows down the process by preventing us from simply verifying your address. When you call in an emergency, you are often upset, afraid, and not always thinking rationally. As a result you will sometimes forget your address, and we cannot get help to you until that address is determined.
The dispatcher will try to call you back. If the dispatcher reaches a child on the phone, he/she will ask to speak to an adult. An officer will be dispatched to the residence if no adult can be reached. If no one answers, an officer will be dispatched. If the line is busy, the dispatcher will attempt to break through with the help of an operator to see if it was a misdial or there is an emergency needing help.
We only have 15 incoming 911 lines for the entire county. Any major incident will cause numerous lines to ring regarding this one incident. (Large fire, major traffic accident, etc.) Those 15 lines can get tied up quickly. If we are taking your non-emergency call also on 911, a real emergency caller may reach a busy signal.