Tips On Calling 911

I’ve been thinking a lot about 9-1-1 calls lately. I read the transcripts from Amanda Berry‘s and Charles Ramsey’s 9-1-1 calls from earlier this month and yesterday, there was a situation outside the café where I work, involving an incapacitated and injured man. A woman called 9-1-1 and I was so impressed with the direct and confident way she handled the phone call. I’ve only phoned 9-1-1 once in my life, for something small, and even then I was a bit of a mess.

I know we’re all taught how to call 911 when we’re kids, but I could definitely use a refresher.

Here is what the Toronto Police site says about it:

Remain calm and speak clearly. Identify which emergency service you require (police, fire, or ambulance) and be prepared to provide the following information:

  • A description of what is happening
  • The location
  • Your name, address and telephone number

Remain on the line to provide additional information if requested to do so by the call taker.  Do not hang up until the call taker tells you to do so. Remember, it is important to have your house numbers visible from the street. This will assist emergency personnel in finding you as quickly as possible.

I’ve also found, in my (thankfully) limited experience with emergencies, that it’s sometimes difficult to know when to call 911. Is the situation serious enough? Would it be a waste of their time? Is it even an emergency? People often stand around asking each other, unsure about placing the call.

The Toronto police say to call 9-1-1 “during any emergency where people or property are at risk.” Think: fire, crime, medical emergency happening now (there is another number in your city for reporting crimes after the fact). But if you’re unsure, it’s best to just call. The call taker will help decide if emergency units should be sent to your location. If you do call, and have second thoughts about it, don’t hang up! The call taker will try to call you back, assuming there is an emergency. Stay on the line and explain that the call was unnecessary or unintentional. For the same reason, it is important to keep your information up-to-date as the operator will use your most recently updated home address if you are unable to speak.

Hopefully none of us will have to place a 9-1-1 call in our lives, but if we do, it’s best to be prepared. Keep calm, observe the situation, trust your instincts and get help.

1 Comment

  1. Aj
    May 23, 2013

    What a timely piece! I was torn about calling 911yesterday when I found a dog straddling two roof overhangs. I called anyway and I don’t think the operator considered it an emergency as no one actually showed up to help. (Dog was rescued with help from neighbours).

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