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, deaf/blind, hard of hearing or speech
If you use a TTY/TDD, you should:
- Stay calm, using your TTY dial 9-1-1.
- You may receive a quicker response from 9-1-1 by
pressing any of the TTY keys a few times.
- 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 type of help is needed-police, fire
department, or ambulance. Give your name, phone number and the address or
location where help is needed.
- Stay on the telephone if it is safe. Answer the call
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 9-1-1.
- Be prepared to provide your location information using
an address, cross streets or landmarks, especially if you are not at your
- Your call may need to be transferred to reach the
correct 9-1-1 center.
- Stay on the telephone if it is safe. Answer the call
If you do not have a TTY/TDD or access to relay
services, you should dial 9-1-1, preferably from a landline phone. With 9-1-1
calls made from a landline phone, the caller's address is displayed on the call
taker's screen. Do not hang up; keep the line open so that the call taker can
listen for background noise. If you must call from a cell phone, leave the line
open. Call from cell phones may display your approximate location.
I send a text to 9-1-1?
Texting to 9-1-1 is not available in most areas.
The 9-1-1 industry is committed to working with
wireless carriers and the FCC to implement texting to 9-1-1 throughout the
country in the next few years. You may check with your local 9-1-1 center to
see if it is available in your area.
When text to 9-1-1 is available in your area
please remember "Call when you can, text
when you can’t.” Texting should only be used when you are unable to make a
voice call to 9-1-1.
Here are a few things to know if you need to
text an emergency to 9-1-1:
- Text location
information is not as robust as current location technology.
- The first thing 9-1-1
needs to know is location and type of help needed.
- Text in full words.
- Be prepared to answer
questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 call taker.
- Like all text messages, messages
can take longer to receive, messages can get out of order or your message may
not be received at all.
- If texting to 9-1-1 is
not available in your area or is temporarily unavailable you should receive a
message on your phone to indicate that the text was not received by 9-1-1.
Click here for more information on text-to-9-1-1.
NENA 9-1-1 Q&A Information provided in part by the North Central Texas Council of Governments, Tarrant County 9-1-1 District, Denco Area 9-1-1 District, Greater Harris County, and the NENA Public Education & PSAP Training Committee.