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#288088 - 02/03/18 10:09 PM Calling 911 Effectively
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6716
Loc: southern Cal
The local TV has been airing recordings of recent 911 calls made during the recent Montecito floods. Many are garbled, vague, and not helpful at all. People were obviously panicked, not surprising with a houseful of mud and slime...

So what constitutes an effective, helpful 911 call?


The guidelines presented seem pretty clear. Comments and additions? Beforeyou dial, pause,take a deep breath, and get your act together.
Geezer in Chief

#288089 - 02/03/18 10:55 PM Re: Calling 911 Effectively [Re: hikermor]
chaosmagnet Online   content
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/03/09
Posts: 3025
Loc: USA
Good article. With most phones, nowadays, being mobile, it’s critical that the first thing you tell the 911 operator is your location. If the only thing they hear is you telling them slowly and clearly where you are, help can be sent.

Edited by chaosmagnet (02/03/18 10:56 PM)
Edit Reason: Multiple typos

#288090 - 02/04/18 04:22 AM Re: Calling 911 Effectively [Re: hikermor]
haertig Offline

Registered: 03/13/05
Posts: 2035
Loc: Colorado
I would start off with ONE SENTENCE that describes exactly what you need. You can add details later.

E.g., "I need an ambulance for a gunshot victim at 123 Main street in Anytown, Colorado"

"I need police assistance for a home invasion at (location)." Always give your complete location, including city/state (no need for zipcode though, they're not going to be responding via US mail).

That way, if you get cut off or start babbling or fall apart later, the dispatcher can play back the start of the recording (your calls are always recorded) and get things rolling. Hopefully you can get your head together enough when calling 911 to come up with one short, clear initial sentence that you're going to say.

Next up, I would give a callback phone number. They may already have this, they may not, but it's important so go ahead and state it specifically to cover the bases.

Later in the call you can give your name, the extent of any injuries, in a fire scenario if everybody has gotten out of the house, identifying/navigation info about your house - paint color, what type of cars are parked out front, etc.

#288091 - 02/04/18 08:23 AM Re: Calling 911 Effectively [Re: hikermor]
M_a_x Online   happy
Old Hand

Registered: 08/16/02
Posts: 1037
Loc: Germany
It may be a good Idea to make and carry a checklist for the call (in Germany there is one in FAKs for vehicles). That allows to get your head together, collect the required information and most importantly calm down a bit.
In first aid courses we tell the people to let the dispatcher take the lead. That makes the call more organized and probably faster.
If it isn´t broken, it doesn´t have enough features yet.

#288092 - 02/04/18 10:00 AM Re: Calling 911 Effectively [Re: hikermor]
Herman30 Online   content

Registered: 08/08/06
Posts: 251
Loc: Finland
We in Finland have a 112 (our emergency phone number) mobile phone app that automatically gives your position to the dispatcher.
That works only if you have GPS switched on and working data connection.


The 112 application, developed by Digia, has been integrated to the systems of the Emergency Response Centre Administration, which enables the automatic delivery of the location information to the emergency service dispatcher. The application uses satellite geolocation, which is considerably more accurate than the previous emergency geolocation mechanisms.

“The accuracy of the current emergency geolocation systems is hundreds of metres, even kilometres outside of urban areas. With satellite-based geolocation, the caller may be located within even tens of metres.

When the accuracy of the emergency geolocation is specified from hundreds or even thousands of metres to tens of metres, it becomes possible to send help to the location from the nearest possible unit, and the target is known clearly. The processing of the calls also becomes faster.

“The application uses the same form of coordinates as the systems of the Emergency Response Centre Administration. When an information connection is not usable and the location information is not delivered automatically, the coordinates may be verified from the application and reported to the Emergency Response Centre worker vocally”, Nieminen states.

#288093 - 02/04/18 02:03 PM Re: Calling 911 Effectively [Re: haertig]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6716
Loc: southern Cal
Your emphasis on clear location reminds me of an incident in Channel Islands Nat'l Park some years ago where a hiker, caught in a storm, called 911 for help. He contacted a Highway Patrol dispatcher who had no clue about the island and thought the locality was the city of Santa Cruz, CA which is a few hundred miles distant.

Eventually things got squared away and a park boat was dispatched to the island on a dark and stormy night. A wet and bedraggled rescue party eventually reached the hiker, who had found a nice snug rock shelter and built a fire. He was in much better shape than his "rescuers."

I think that was the first ever 911 call from the park islands...
Geezer in Chief

#288094 - 02/04/18 05:20 PM Re: Calling 911 Effectively [Re: hikermor]
Russ Offline

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 5002
There are a lot of things about 9-1-1 calls that are easy to discuss in an internet forum and a whole ‘nuther animal if you are in a situation or even a mere observer. I’ve never had to call 9-1-1 and I’d really like to hear from a 9-1-1 operator/dispatcher. Guys like me who have never had to make the call let alone receive one should be the last to give such advise.

That said, it’s probably good to have an automatic preamble so the 9-1-1 operator will know to whom she’s speaking and a relevant location — Name, phone number, location — and then get into why you’re calling. The preamble would be easy because name and phone number should roll right out, and location shouldn’t take too much thought (if you are on an island, be sure to say “ISLAND” so there’s no confusion).

As for why you’re calling, if you are personally involved, it may be difficult to stay calm and speak so you are clear and easily understood, which is why I like the preamble — it gets you speaking relevant stuff you don’t really need to think about, before you get into discussing the situation.

IMO it’s best to be calm, clear and methodical than to speak loudly and in a hurry. Speaking fast will not make the response quicker; being easily understood will possibly make the response quicker and more appropriate. Easier said...

#288095 - 02/04/18 06:27 PM Re: Calling 911 Effectively [Re: Russ]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6716
Loc: southern Cal
Heartily agree that it would be great to hear from an actual 911 operator about specifics..

I just finished making a non-emergency call to my local PD (about a vehicle parked illegally) and I made sure that I had the license plate and description of the vehicle written down. In my first statement I gave my name and address -location is everything! I was surprised that I was asked for my telephone number - surely that was displayed on the other end. Maybe a double check?

It is certainly harder when you are stressed and more so if you aren't certain of your location, and for that matter, what is the best format in which to give your coordinates, assuming you have them?
Geezer in Chief

#288096 - 02/04/18 06:53 PM Re: Calling 911 Effectively [Re: Russ]
haertig Offline

Registered: 03/13/05
Posts: 2035
Loc: Colorado
I was not a 911 dispatcher, but worked with them closely as a paramedic on an ambulance. It might be instructional to learn what came out to us over a dispatch:

"Respond to unknown medical at (location)"

"Respond to a multi-vehicle accident at (location)"

"Respond to a man complaining of chest pain at (location)"

"Respond to breathing problems at (location)"

"Respond to a female with stomach pains at (location)"

Occasionally we'd get an update with additional detail, but that was rare. e.g., for the "stomach pains", we might get an update "the party may be in labor". For the "chest pains", we might get an update "there may be a Bowie knife sticking out of the chest". More often than not, we really found out what was going on when we arrived, not from detailed information included in the 911 call.

So all those extra details you think are needed in an incoming 911 call? Not so much. True, some things are important for the dispatcher and not the responders - like your callback number. That was filtered out before dispatch.

My point is, to get responders rolling, all's we hear is an abrupt and short one sentence synopsis of your 911 call. What gets dispatched to us is probably what would be your best opening line on your 911 call. Short and sweet. Location is the most important.

If the dispatchers can't figure out what you're in need of, you'll get police, and ambulance, and fire. In many cases you'll get all three of those anyway, except for obvious police-only dispatches. The police show up to every call (at least where I worked). Fire and ambulance show up to all medical and trauma calls. Ambulance shows up to all large fire calls. If it sounds like a bad police call, fire and ambulance show up too, but are staged back a block or so to be out of the kill zone/line of fire.

#288109 - 02/05/18 12:28 PM Re: Calling 911 Effectively [Re: hikermor]
quick_joey_small Offline

Registered: 01/13/09
Posts: 502
Loc: UK
Don't forget the rest of the world doesn't use 911 to call for an emergency service. Look up the local one and write it on a label on your phone before you travel.

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