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What to Say When Dialing 911


No one likes to think about where they’ll be when they have to dial 9-1-1. Whether calling for themselves, a family member, or a complete stranger, no one quite knows how they’ll react in an emergency situation. That said, it’s vital to share some really important information with your 9-1-1 operator. While the operator will no doubt try to guide the information you give them by asking pointed questions, you should also try to pass along the following facts.

The Address of Your Emergency: Perhaps the most important piece of information you can share in a 9-1-1 call is where the emergency is located. If you have a specific address, such as a home or business, share that information. If you don’t have an exact address, or you can’t remember it, don’t worry. Cross streets or a general location, such as the name of a housing development, can also provide 9-1-1- operators with valuable insights as to where they should direct an emergency crew to go.

A Callback Number: Used for verification as well as in the event your call is lost, always provide a way for a 9-1-1 operator to get back in touch with you.

Type of Incident: When you’re at the scene of an emergency situation, it’s important to share as much as you know about the problem at hand. Are you at someone’s house and you think they’re having a heart attack? Perhaps you witnessed a car accident. Maybe you see smoke coming from a neighboring home. Whatever the incident, tell the 9-1-1 operator everything you can about the situation so that they can dispatch the proper emergency crew (police, fire department, ambulance, etc.).

Is the Victim Conscious/Breathing: Sometimes you can tell this with a glance. Other times, it may be more difficult to find out. If you’re unsure, check for a pulse or signs of breaths being taken. Do what you can to give your 9-1-1 operator the best visual you can of the situation.

Details About the Victim: If possible, share known information about the person you’re calling 9-1-1 for. Is the victim young or old? Male or female? Do they have a history of health issues such as cancer or diabetes? Any insights you have into the person you’re calling for should be shared, as they may provide valuable clues for rescue crews.

Knowing what to do in an emergency situation can help reduce feelings of stress and helplessness. Remember that while it’s important to share information asked for by your 9-1-1 operator, it’s also important to listen to the information your operator is sharing with you. Always do what the dispatcher asks you to do. To be as prepared as possible in the event of an emergency, consider taking a local CPR or first aid class. Properly administered first aid prior to the arrival of rescue crews may help save a life.

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