Basic 9-1-1 Questions & Answers

Start here for questions and answers about the 9-1-1 System

  • 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 also be able to be connected with Poison Control by calling 9-1-1, but you should check with your local officials 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 that 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 that appears on his or her computer screen. In most areas, phone number and location information are available for 9-1-1 calls made from a cellular/wireless phone.

  • Who pays for 9-1-1?

    In most areas, each household or business pays a small monthly fee for 9-1-1 service on each telephone line 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 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 also can 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?

    Communications centers that answer 9-1-1 calls have special text telephones for responding to 9-1-1 calls from deaf or hearing/speech impaired callers. If a caller uses a TTY/TDD, the caller should:

    • Stay calm, place the phone receiver in the TTY, dial 9-1-1.
    • 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 where help is needed.
    • Stay on the telephone if it is safe. Answer the call-taker's questions.

    If a deaf or hearing/speech impaired caller doesn't have a TTY/TDD, the caller should call 9-1-1 and don't hang up. Not hanging up leaves the line open. With most 9-1-1 calls, the caller's address is displayed on the call-taker's screen and help will be sent.

    TEXT to 9-1-1 is available to all callers in Hamilton County using an SMS-enabled device (cell phone).

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