Frequently Asked Questions - Communications

When should I call 911?

When should I not call 911?

How can I help my 911 dispatcher when I call?

What if I call 911 by mistake?

Why do the dispatchers ask so many questions when I call?

How is a wireless/cell phone 911 call different?

Do I need a burn permit and how do I get one?

What if I don’t know where I’m at when I call 911?

Did you ask about your 9-1-1 service when you bundled your Internet, phone, and cable services?

How do I know if I have a VoIP?

Can I use a TTY Device for speech and hearing impaired callers?

I speak a foreign language. Can the 9-1-1 Center communicate with me during an emergency?


When should I call 911?

9-1-1 is for emergencies, potential emergencies, or when an emergency is imminent. Ask yourself:

  • Is there a danger to life or property?
  • Is there a serious medical emergency (chest pains, seizures, bleeding, etc.)
  • Is there any type of fire (building, vehicle, brush, etc.)
  • Is there any crime in-progress (robbery, burglary, prowler, fights, etc.)
  • Are there any other life threatening situations (traffic accident with injuries, stuck in high water, etc.)

You should call 9-1-1 anytime you believe there is an actual emergency. If you are unsure, call 9-1-1 and the dispatcher can assist you.

When should I not call 911?

Please do not call 9-1-1 to report that electricity or other utilities are out; to notify authorities of traffic jams; to inquire about government services or to learn general information.

The Emergency Communications Center has several non-emergency telephone lines that are accessible to the public. For all non-emergency situations, please call 719-4505 or 719-4169. Examples of calls that should be placed to the non-emergency number are:

  • Traffic accidents that do not involve injuries
  • Loud music or barking dogs
  • Late reported incidents such as theft with no suspect information
  • Requests for information

How can I help my 911 dispatcher when I call?

When reporting an emergency:

  • Remain calm
  • Speak clearly
  • Listen to instructions
  • Answer all questions

The person answering 9-1-1 is a trained dispatcher. They have been trained to ask certain questions. Be prepared to follow the dispatcher’s line of questioning. (e.g. WHAT is happening, WHERE the situation is occurring, WHEN did the incident occur, WHO is involved, is a WEAPON involved, what INJURIES have been sustained, etc.).

What if I call 911 by mistake?

If you call 9-1-1 by mistake, DO NOT HANG UP. Stay on the line and tell the dispatcher that everything is all right. If a caller to 911 hangs up without stating the problem, the caller must be contacted in order to ensure that no actual emergency exits. This may involve the dispatching of an officer to your home or place of business in order to ensure that a problem does not exist. One common misconception that citizens have about dialing 911 by mistake is they will somehow get into trouble. This is not true.

Why do the dispatchers ask so many questions when I call?

Dispatchers ask for pertinent information first – address, type of call, name of caller or those involved. Once the initial information is obtained, additional questions may be asked depending on the type of call. The questioning will not slow down the dispatching of the appropriate assistance. In emergency cases, this information is relayed immediately to field units so they may begin responding to the incident, while the dispatcher remains on the phone to obtain further details that are also relayed to the responding units as it is gathered, in real time. The dispatcher will further assist callers by giving instructions to callers on how to administer life saving techniques, such as CPR, during medical emergencies. They will take steps to promote the personal safety of the caller, the victim and responding Police, Fire or EMS personnel. They will also engage in actions which preserve evidence to aid in the apprehension of suspects.

How is a wireless/cell phone 911 call different?

Calls for assistance from a residential or “hard wired plug-in phone” will come into the E911 center with a name, call back number and an address. However, the dispatcher will still verify this information to make sure it is correct and that the responding agencies are directed to the proper location. Wireless or cell phone calls that come in will contain varying information. This information depends on the type of cell phone that you have, which cellular tower site location it reached and whether or not it is GPS capable. GPS capable phones will provide an estimated physical location. The complainant’s name, location and call back number are not available to the Dispatcher and will have to be verified. Providing landmarks, mile markers and general location descriptors will help speed a response to your location.

Do I need a burn permit and how do I get one?

If you are going to burn anything, you need to call Forestry at 1-800-895-7063 to receive a burn permit number.

What if I don’t know where I’m at when I call 911?

If you call 911 from a regular landline telephone, the phone number from which you are calling is sent to a database hosted by AT&T. The database will then send your address to the operator in the 911 Center. If you are mobile and calling from a cell phone, you will be asked to verify your location. Being able to give a nearby address, intersection, landmark or any other descriptors of the area will help emergency personnel locate you.

Did you ask about your 9-1-1 service when you bundled your Internet, phone, and cable services?

With the increasing popularity of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone services in our area, it is very important that you check with your service providers to make sure that your addresses and phone numbers are correct and are associated with the correct Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for any potential 9-1-1 calls.

Being able to call 9-1-1 is a vital component of public safety and emergency preparedness. Traditional “wire-line” phone services have generally associated a particular phone number with a fixed address. Cellular phone services have generally associated a particular phone number with both the subscriber’s address and the physical location of the phone itself by means of using the phone’s GPS coordinates or cell tower usages. Depending on the nature of a 9-1-1 call, both wire-line and cell calls allow the local PSAP to help pinpoint a caller’s location to send help.

Consumers who use VoIP should be aware that VoIP 9-1-1 service may work differently from traditional 9-1-1 services. VoIP service allows you to make and receive calls to and from traditional phone numbers using a high-speed (broadband) Internet connection. VoIP services enables users to take their home or business phone service almost anywhere they have internet access. Because VoIP services are portable, or can be used from virtually any Internet connection anywhere, the location of the caller may not be capable of being determined automatically. The only address associated with a VoIP call is the address of the bill, or what the service provider has entered into the system. This can cause an issue if the address is listed incorrectly. Portability raises a number of challenges for the emergency services community. Although the FCC has taken action to make sure that emergency calls from these VoIP services will get through to the appropriate public safety authorities, there are still possible differences between VoIP 9-1-1 and traditional wire-line 9-1-1 service.

How do I know if I have a VoIP?

Cable Internet providers offer VoIP phone service, as well as some of the more traditional telephone carriers. If you have recently “bundled” your cable, phone, and internet service; odds are you are now using a VoIP phone. Also, some specific companies such as “Vonage” or “Magic Jack” are solely VoIP providers. The best thing to do if you are not sure is to contact your phone provider’s customer service department and ask.

If you are using a VoIP phone system that does not mean you won’t get 9-1-1 services. VoIP customers may need to provide or update their physical address location information to their VoIP providers, especially if they have recently changed locations, for their VoIP 9-1-1 service to function properly. This ensures that your provider has your updated information and if you dial 9-1-1, the responders do not respond to an incorrect address.

One other thing to remember with VoIP service is that if your power goes out or your internet connection goes down, you may lose your ability to make and receive calls. You might want to consider installing a backup power supply, maintaining a traditional phone line, or having a wireless phone to use as a backup in case of an emergency.

To get more information about VoIP telephone service and 9-1-1 emergency dialing you can visit the Federal Communications Commission website at this address: http://www.fcc.gov/guides/voip-and-9-1-1-service

Can I use a TTY Device for speech and hearing impaired callers?

The Emergency Communications Center is equipped with Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD) that enables typed communications with the caller.

I speak a foreign language. Can the 9-1-1 Center communicate with me during an emergency?

The Emergency Communications Center provides a service made available from Language Line Inc. This service provides us over-the-phone interpretation of more than 140 languages, 24 hours a day.