911 Emergency Calls What to Expect When You Make an Emergency Call to a 911 Call Center

Processing Emergency Calls

When you call 911, you reach a 911 Dispatcher. It’s their job to evaluate your call and determine the type of response required, all while keeping you calm in what may be a stressful and frightening situation. They enter your call information into the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system for routing to the appropriate sector for deployment.

Dispatching Emergency Services

Another 911 Dispatcher communicates to first responders in the field. 911 Dispatchers are aware of all calls as they are entered into the CAD system. Appropriate resources are dispatched to each call. The 911 Dispatcher maintains contact with units in the field and coordinates the response of specialty units such as K9, SWAT, and detectives.

Examples of 911 emergencies include fire, a crime in progress or one that has just occurred, and medical crisis.

NEVER Call 911 and Hang Up!

If you accidentally dial 911, do not hang up. Let the 911 Dispatcher know that you accidentally called; otherwise, the 911 Dispatcher will attempt to call you back, and if unable to reach you, will trace the call and dispatch police to the location in an attempt to identify the emergency. This ensures that a caller who is incapacitated or unable to communicate with the 911 Dispatcher can receive help.

NEVER Make a Test Call to 911 without Prior Permission from the Communications Center!

Test calls, as well as other non-emergency calls, occupy the 911 Dispatcher and tie up the phone lines and equipment, making them unavailable for people in real emergency situations.

When to Call 911 If you are unsure how serious an incident is, do not hesitate to call 911. Assistance will be dispatched.

  • Crimes in-progress or crimes where the suspect is still in the vicinity

  • Traffic accidents when parties involved are still on-scene

  • Hit-and-run traffic accidents

  • Any crime involving bodily assault

  • Any domestic violence crime

  • Threats or immediate risk to life or property

  • Theft or intentional damage to property with at least $10,000 in loss or damages

  • Motor vehicle (licensed for the road) theft

  • Bomb, terrorist, or hate-bias threats or acts

  • Burglary (entering a structure with the intent to commit a crime, theft, or damage to property)

  • Suspicious persons, vehicles, or circumstances when in-progress suspects are still in the area

  • Fire or possible fire

  • Emergency medical needs

Advancements in 911 Technology

The majority of phone calls to 911 will display a name, address, and phone number on the 911 Dispatcher's computer screen. Likewise, cellular phones provide a telephone number and many provide a name and the latitude and longitude from where the call is made. Using GPS technology and computer mapping capabilities, technology is fast on the way to providing more accurate location information on cell phone calls.


Text-to-911 services are critical to helping those who may not be able to speak due to an emergency such as a home invasion or abusive partner, and those who are hearing or speech impaired. When texting to 911 for an emergency, the first message you should send is the location or address of the emergency, including the city and the type of emergency help needed (police, fire, or EMS).

Let the 911 Dispatcher Guide the Conversation Questions Lead to Faster Dispatch

When a 911 call is made within Grant County, dispatchers will ask you:

  • to confirm the location of the emergency.
  • to confirm the telephone number from which you are calling.
  • questions to provide the fastest and most accurate response to your call for help.

Please be patient and answer all questions to the best of your ability. Answering questions will not slow down the dispatch of your call.

Speak Clearly and Be Aware of Your Surroundings!

Prepare for an Emergency Post Your Address and Phone Number Near Your Phone


Post your address and phone number near your phone, so they can be read by anyone using the phone in an emergency.


Make sure your house number is visible at night from the street and is clearly posted on the curb where your driveway joins the main road.


Instruct your children and their caretakers on the proper use of 911, and make sure they know where to find your address and phone number.

911 FOR:

  • Directions or phone numbers.

  • Information about animal control issues unless the animal has bitten someone or is currently acting aggressively.

  • Information on someone in jail or to find out if someone is in jail.

  • Issues that are not of a police, fire, or medical nature. Refer to the government pages of the local telephone directory for the appropriate number.

  • Reporting a crime after the fact (vehicle prowling, vandalism, custodial interference, harassment, etc.) that does not require an officer/deputy at the scene.

  • For safety-related information. Do an internet search or refer to your telephone book for the business number of your police and fire departments for safety-related information.

  • Questions relating to power, cable, or telephone outages. Instead, contact your local utility provider.

While on the Phone with 911 Dispatchers These are the things you can do to aid in the process:

It’s stressful to call 911, no matter the reason. Remember, the person on the other end of the line is a 911 professional with hundreds of hours of training who knows just how to handle your call, and who has access to get you the help needed.

Your location and phone number are critical pieces of information. If you do not know the exact address, provide a hundred block, an intersection, or a landmark to help the 911 Dispatcher understand where you are located.

Don't worry that additional questions are slowing down the dispatch of emergency responders, as they are not. As soon as the 911 Dispatcher has basic minimal information from you, they will start the dispatch, even as you answer other questions.

When providing information about an incident, be as descriptive as possible. You may be asked to give identifying information about persons and/or automobiles involved in a situation.

Although the 911 Dispatcher receives basic information based on the telephone from which you are calling, the information comes from a computer database. It is possible that the database could be in error, or that what you are reporting is not at the same location as the telephone you are calling from. For these reasons, the 911 Dispatcher is required to confirm the correctness of the location of the emergency and the telephone number you are calling from.

Equally important, when the 911 Dispatcher has finished taking your information, please release the 911 line as soon as possible. As an Emergency Communications Center, we have to balance the competing needs of getting enough information, dispatching with the most speed possible, and making ourselves available for the next 911 call. It is very important that callers help us keep the lines as available as possible so that all emergency calls can be answered as quickly as possible.

Depending upon the type of call, we may keep you on the line for additional information or to receive instructions.

Closeup of Dispatcher taking call and entering information into the computer 3