What is 9-1-1?
Nine-one-one is the number most people in the U.S. and some in International countries call to get help in a police, fire or medical emergency. In some places, you may be able to be connected with Poison Control by calling 9-1-1, but you should check with local officials in your area to make sure. A 9-1-1 call goes over dedicated networks to the appropriate 9-1-1 answering point (PSAP) for the caller's location, and trained personnel then send the emergency help needed.
What is Enhanced 9-1-1?
Enhanced 9-1-1, or E9-1-1, is a system which routes an emergency call to the appropriate 9-1-1 answering point (PSAP) for the caller's location, AND automatically displays the caller's phone number and address. The 9-1-1 call taker will typically ask the caller to verify the information, which appears on his or her computer screen. In most areas, phone number and location information is available for 9-1-1 calls made from a cellular/wireless phone.
Who pays for 9-1-1?
In most areas each household and business pays a small monthly fee for 9-1-1 service that appears on their phone bill. There is no per-call charge for calling 9-1-1. However, EMS/ambulances 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?
Nine-one-one (9-1-1) is only to be used in 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 call 9-1-1. It's better to be safe and let the 9-1-1 call taker determine if you need emergency assistance.
Do not call 9-1-1:
- for information
- for directory assistance
- when you're bored and just want to talk
- for paying traffic tickets
- for your pet
- as a prank
If you call 9-1-1 by mistake, do not hang up. Tell the call taker 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 calls 9-1-1 for a joke, or calls 9-1-1 and hangs up. Prank calls not only waste time and money, but can also be dangerous. If 9-1-1 lines or call takers 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.
How do I make a 9-1-1 call?
In an emergency, dial 9-1-1 on your phone. It's a free call. You can use any kind of phone: push button, rotary, cellular/wireless, cordless, or pay phone. (With some pay phones, you may need coins to get a dial tone; with many wireless phones, Enhanced 9-1-1 does not yet work.)
Stay calm and state your emergency
Speak loudly and clearly. Give the 9-1-1 call taker your name, phone number and the address where help is needed.
Answer the call taker's questions. Stay on the telephone if it's safe to do so, and don't hang up until the call taker tells you to.
What if a 9-1-1 caller doesn't speak English?
When necessary, a 9-1-1 call taker can add an interpreter from an outside service to the line. A non-English speaking caller may hear a short conversation in English and some clicking sounds as the interpreter is added to the line.
What if a 9-1-1 caller is Deaf, or hearing/speech impaired?
9-1-1 call takers are trained
to answer emergency calls from persons who are deaf or hearing/speech impaired.
If you uses a TTY/TDD, you should:
- Stay calm, place the phone receiver in the TTY,
- After the call is answered, press the TTY keys
several times. This may help shorten the time necessary to respond to the call.
- Give the call taker time to connect their TTY.
If necessary, press the TTY keys again. The 9-1-1 call taker should answer and
type "GA" for Go Ahead.
- Tell what is needed-police, fire department, or
ambulance. Give your name, phone number and the address or location where help
- Stay on the telephone if it is safe. Answer the call taker's questions.
If you use a VRS (Video Relay Service) or IP (Internet
Protocol) Relay, you should:
- Register and provide your address with the relay
provider of your choice. Keep your address updated.
- Be aware that relay calls may take several
minutes to connect. If you hang up, your call may not be connected to
- Be prepared to provide your location information
using an address, cross streets or landmarks, since relay calls may not display
- Answer the call taker's questions.
- You may need to be transferred to another 9-1-1
center. Stay on the call if it is safe.
If you do not have a TTY/TDD or
access to Relay services, you should dial 9-1-1, preferably from a
landline/home phone. Do not hang up, keep the line open. With 9-1-1 calls
made from a home phone, the caller's address is displayed on the call taker's
screen, the call taker can listen for background noise, and help will be sent
to the location displayed. As a last resort, call from a cell phone and
leave the line open, your approximate location may be displayed.
Texting to 9-1-1 is not available in most areas.
NENA 9-1-1 Q&A Information provided in part by the North Central Texas Council of Governments, Tarrant County 9-1-1 District and Denco Area 9-1-1 District.