Help! 9-1-1 Basics – Personal Safety
If you follow along with the steps below, you will be light years ahead of the average citizen-off-the-street when the chips are down, and you need help NOW. You will make the process run smoothly and cut your stress level.
Remember 9-1-1 is for emergencies. All other non-emergency calls should be made to the 7 digit phone number for the agency, usually found in the front of the phone book.
These steps are helpful no matter if you live in the largest city or the most remote areas of the country. They follow the writer’s edict of who, what, where, why and how.. just in a different order that is more helpful to the dispatcher.
Let’s get started:
First- Take a couple of deep breaths to get oxygen to your brain and calm the adrenaline surging through your body.
Next- Know the address of the emergency. While Enhanced 911 is available in most of the country, the address associated with the telephone number you are calling from may not be the correct one. If you’re unfamiliar, look for a piece of mail nearby, ask a bystander, or check the numbers on the front of the house , apartment or office building (if you are in a city or suburb). Don’t forget the name of the nearest cross street if you know it. If you are rural, mileage from the nearest intersection or point of reference becomes key.
In the case of a cell phone: Try to figure out your direction of travel if on a major highway, the nearest exit and how far you are from it, or if you are not moving, the nearest street and house/business address and name.
Voip phones: Most Voice over Internet Protocol Phones do not provide location data to the dispatch center directly. They rely on a call center. The address associated with the voip phone may not be the address you are calling from in an emergency (example is a vacation home where the Voip phone is brought from the primary home, sometimes in another state).
Next- Know WHY you are calling. What’s happening. Is someone hurt from a fall, someone trying to break into your house, someone found in a pool, or did a 3rd party ask you to call for an unknown reason?
Call 9-1-1 yourself
Don’t call your friend on a cell phone in the next town over, and tell them to call 9-1-1 for you. The call will just delay help and facts may get twisted under stress. If it’s YOUR emergency YOU need to make the call.
Making the call
If you are on a house phone or a cell phone press 9-1-1 (for the United States and Canada) If you are in another country, learn the emergency number now. (some are listed below).
Be aware that some office phones require you to dial 9 first, to get an outside line. IF 9-1-1 doesn’t work, hang up and try 9, 9-1-1
Try to control your breathing. Slow the pace of your voice. It’s natural to be breathless and speak quickly in an emergency when under stress. Try to speak slowly and clearly.
Know what to expect
The dispatcher at the other end of the phone will ask you a series of questions. It’s important that you answer them as clearly as possible.
Just because the dispatcher is still on the phone with you asking more questions does NOT mean they aren’t dispatching the help you need as you are talking. Quite the opposite is true.
Modern computer aided dispatch systems allow a pre-alert on the call as it comes in. In the case of a medical emergency, fire and EMS will most likely be dispatched while you are STILL ON THE CALL with the dispatcher asking questions. Just because they are still talking to you, doesn’t mean help is delayed.
The dispatcher will ask you WHERE is the emergency. If you don’t know the exact address, then try to provide as much identifying information as you can, including direction of travel and landmarks (if known).
The dispatcher will ask you WHAT is the emergency. Is this a medical emergency, do you require law enforcement help, is there a fire ? What’s on fire?
After you give this information, you may be transferred again.
DO NOT HANG UP.
Some 9-1-1 call centers have call screeners. In the case of a medical emergency, after the location information has been given, you may be transferred to a dispatcher trained in Emergency Medical Dispatch. They will ask you for the location and nature of the emergency again, and start a series of medical questions designed by a physician, to help them assign priority to the call and give you pre-arrival medical instructions.
It’s VERY important you stay with the call during the entire process.
Doing so may save a life, even if you have no formal medical training.
In the case of a law enforcement problem, you may be asked for a description of suspects. Anticipate giving skin color, approximate height and weight, hair color and a clothing description, along with a direction of travel and how long ago.
The dispatcher will ask you for your call-back phone number. If there is trouble finding you, or additional information is needed, they may need to call you back.
Follow the instructions of the dispatcher. In the case of pre-arrival medical instructions you may save a life. If you are told to evacuate in case of fire DO NOT delay. Get all of your family members out of the danger zone as quickly as possible.
Don’t hang up until you are told to by the dispatcher to do so
In the case of a law enforcement problem where you may be in danger, the dispatcher may keep you on the phone until law enforcement makes contact with you.
Respect the system. 9-1-1 is one of the most abused public services in the United States. Please use it only in a true emergency. A House Fire, Robbery in progress, and Medical emergencies are ok. A broken city water line or a cat stuck in a tree, or minor pain in your big toe are NOT ok. 9-1-1 is not a taxi service.
The emergency number MAY NOT BE 9-1-1 if you are traveling. In the UK the number is 9-9-9, in Australia it’s 0-0-0, and in the European Union it’s 1-1-2. Verify the number before you travel.
Keeping calm, knowing your location and speaking slowly are the keys to a successful call for help.
So now you know the insider’s scoop. So you can Bee Ready for that call.
Photo courtesy of MrPhilDog
Founder of Tactical Access and Founding Contributor of 2BeeReady.org