How to use 9-1-1

What you hear is just the beginning

When you talk to a 911 Call Taker, you are actually talking to three or more people: the Call Taker, the Dispatcher, and the Responders. The Call Taker’s job is to get the information that everyone involved in the call, including you, needs to be safe and do what needs doing as calmly as possible.

Call Taker

What kinds of questions will the Call Taker ask?

Every call is different, but they all begin with the same few questions:  

  • What is the address of the emergency? Remember: No matter what else you want to tell us, we can’t send help if we don’t know where the emergency is. 
  • What is the phone number you’re calling from? If we get cut off, we need to be able to call you back.
  • Tell me exactly what happened. Be as concise as possible, and tell us what’s happening NOW, not what led to the problem.

If you’re calling from a cell phone, you may be asked to press a key or speak at the very beginning of the call, before you are connected with the Call Taker. You can find out why here.

You can click here to learn more about talking to the Call Taker, and about other questions we might ask.

What if I’m not able to speak? What if I’m hearing impaired? Can I Text to 9-1-1?

If you’re not free to speak when you call, leave the line open. If we’re not sure you’re OK, we’ll send help.

We can take a text message if you can't speak over the phone. Since seconds can make a difference in an emergency, and texting takes longer than speaking, we will always prefer that you speak if you can.  You can find some other tips for texting 9-1-1 here.

You can also call 9-1-1 on a TTY. To learn how, click here.

What if I don’t actually have an emergency?

If you called 9-1-1 accidentally, just stay on the line and let us know you’re OK. If you hang up, we have to call you back and/or send responders.

Sometimes a Call Taker will tell you that your situation is not an emergency and that you need to call back on a different line. That doesn’t mean we don’t think you have a real problem, and we will always try to send you to the people who can best help you. Remember: If no one’s life is in danger right now, you can always call 541-682-5111. The same people answer the non-emergency line and they can send the same help.

If you deliberately misuse 9-1-1, or if you call 9-1-1 when you have been told not to, you can be arrested and fined up to $6,250. The official definition of misuse of 9-1-1 can be found here.