911 Emergency Calls
The 911 emergency number was introduced in 1968 as a universal number for calling for emergency services within the United States. Most people rarely face emergency situations, so they lack firsthand experience with calling 911. Below are four common questions that officers and public safety personnel are often asked concerning the use of 911.
When is it appropriate to call 911?
The most basic answer is that calling 911 is appropriate whenever a person feels that there is a situation that warrants an immediate physical response by the appropriate emergency service. Examples of such instances include, but are not limited to; the need for emergency medical services, to report a crime in-progress, to report a fire or traffic accident. It is not appropriate to call 911 for routine business such as asking directions or reporting a crime that took place at an earlier time. Please use the Marion Police Department’s non-emergency phone number (319-377-1511) for those situations.
What do I do if I call 911 by mistake?
If you do call 911 by mistake, please do not hang up the phone. 911 call takers are trained to call back phones that call 911 and identify the location from which the call was made. If you happen to call by accident, stay on the line until you can tell the call taker that you called by accident and there is no emergency. This saves the call taker from having to call you back and confirm there is no emergency or possibly sending police with lights and sirens to check your location for an emergency.
What will a 911 operator ask me if I call?
911 operators are trained to obtain the reason for the call and the location first. This is done so that they can get the appropriate emergency personnel en route while they still have you on the phone. They will also ask for your name and they will confirm your phone number. Depending on the situation, they may also ask for any known injuries/medical conditions, weapons involved or access to weapons, suspect descriptions/names of those involved, vehicle descriptions and direction of travel. There may be moments of silence while you are on the phone with the 911 operator, do not hang up. This happens when the 911 operator you are connected with is speaking on the radio to the responding emergency personnel. The 911 operator will tell you when the time is right for you to hang up the phone.
Is it illegal to use 911 for non-emergency calls?
The answer is, yes. Iowa code 718.6(2) states the following: “A person who telephones an emergency 911 communications center knowing that the person is not reporting an emergency or otherwise needing emergency information or assistance commits a simple misdemeanor.” It is understood that sometimes what is initially perceived to be an emergency situation turns out not to be. Mistakes will happen, however enforcement action is likely when a person deliberately calls 911 knowing that an emergency does not exist.
A few tips….
- Lock the keypad to your cell phone when you are not using it. This will help prevent accidental calls to 911.
- Do not program 911 into your auto-dial telephone or cell phone. You won’t forget the number, and programming the number invites accidentally dialing it. Also, please do not dial 911 to “test” your phone or system. This needlessly burdens the dispatchers and the system with non-emergency calls.
- Stay calm. Staying calm can be one of the most difficult, yet most important, things you do when calling 911. It is very important that you stay as calm as possible and answer all the questions the 911 operator asks. The questions the 911 operator asks, no matter how relevant they seem to you, are important in helping get the first responders to you as fast as possible.
- Know the name of the city or county you are in. Knowing the location is vital to getting the appropriate police, fire or EMS units to respond. When cell phones are used to call 911 they frequently route the 911 call to the jurisdiction that the tower is located in. That may be different than the jurisdiction that the caller is in at the time of the call.
- Know your specific location. Knowing the address of your location is the best, but if you don’t know that information, look for landmarks, cross streets, buildings, or other obvious objects that responders can look for.
911 is a fantastic tool in the event of an emergency. Being prepared with adequate information and following these tips will help emergency services help you.