Dos & Don'ts of 911

In general, 911 is an emergency number for any police, fire or medical incident.

Types of 911 Systems

A 911 system is considered either Basic or Enhanced.

  • A Basic 911 system provides three-digit dialing, no-coin is required from pay telephones and intelligent routing to the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) that handles the area where the phone is located. 
  • An Enhanced 911 system adds the ability to display the caller's address and telephone number at the PSAP for the dispatcher's reference.

Avoid Accidental Dialing

Do not program 911 into your auto-dial telephone. You won't forget the number, and programming the number invites accidental dialing of the number. 

Also, please do not dial 911 to "test" your phone or the system. this needlessly burdens the dispatchers and system with non-emergency calls.

Dial Only for Emergencies

Dial 911 only for an emergency. An emergency is any serious medical problem (chest pain, seizure, bleeding), any type of fire (business, car, building), or any life-threatening situation (fights, person(s) with weapons, etc.). Most jurisdictions also urge citizens to use 911 to report crimes in progress, whether or not a life is threatened.

Accidental Calls

If you dialed 911 in error, do not hang up the telephone. 

Instead, stay on the line and explain to the dispatcher that you dialed by mistake and that you do not have an emergency. If you hang up, a police officer must be dispatched according to policy to confirm that you are safe. This will needlessly take resources away from genuine emergencies.

Brief & Responsive Answers

Let the call-taker ask you questions--they have been trained to ask questions that will help prioritize the incident, locate it, and speed an appropriate response. Your answers should be brief and responsive. Remain calm and speak clearly. If you are not in a position to give full answers to the call-taker (the suspect is nearby), stay on the phone and the dispatcher will ask you questions that can be answered "yes" or "no."

Describe Your Location & Emergency

Be prepared to describe your location and the location of the emergency. 

Although an Enhanced 911 system will display your telephone number and location, the dispatcher must confirm the displayed address or may ask you for more specific location information about the victim or suspects.

Be Patient

Be patient as the dispatcher asks you questions. While you are answering the dispatcher's questions, he or she is entering or writing down the information. 

If you are reporting an emergency, most likely a response is being made while you are still on the line with the dispatcher.

More Information

We hope that you have found this information helpful. For more information about 911 or Dispatch, feel free to contact Communications Supervisor Debi Donoho or any one of the communications officers. We have a great team here, and if there are any problems or questions regarding our center contact us at 636-257-2424, ext. 163.

Debi Donoho
Communications Supervisor
636-257-2424, ext. 163