Know before you call

Know before you call
Posted on 03/07/2014

When you have an emergency and you need to call 9-1-1, here is some very important information that you need to be aware of before you make the call. Dispatch centers face several challenges due to the increasing use of cell phones. Please keep these points in mind when calling for help.

  1. When calling 9-1-1 from a cell phone, your approximate GPS location is sent to the dispatch center.  Depending on the age of the phone, it can be accurate to within a few meters.  This is helpful if you're standing by yourself in the middle of an empty football field but isn't quite as useful if you're calling from your apartment.  If that is the case, emergency responders must knock on the doors of all of your neighbors to try to find you.  Be prepared to give your address, possibly more than once, to accurately pinpoint your location and expedite the response.
  2. Even though your telephone number is transmitted to the 9-1-1, center they will always ask you to verify the phone number to ensure that they have the correct number to call you back if your phone should drop the call.
  3. Cell phone technology sends your call to the nearest cell phone tower.  The 9-1-1 center to which that call is directed is determined by the location of the tower, not your physical location.  Your phone could be accessing a cell tower outside of the city you are in.  Be patient while the call is handled and transferred to the appropriate center. Know the address you are calling from and the address where resources are needed.  But also know, if possible, which city you are in or whether you are in an unincorporated area of Salt Lake County.
  4. Even if your cell phone is not active with a cellular provider, it will still call 9-1-1.  Please do not give your phones to children as toys. It can result in false 9-1-1 calls which take up dispatchers’ time, making them unavailable to answer other calls.
  5. If you call 9-1-1 from a business phone landline, please know the address that you are calling from. Many businesses have a central phone system or corporate billing address that is different than location where you work. Many times, the business billing address is what the call-taker sees on the computer screen, which means resources could be sent to a location other than where they are actually needed. This is a very important point! For example, Dynatronics (Mayor Cullimore’s company) is located in Cottonwood Heights and has satellite offices in Michigan, California and Texas. They are all tied into the central phone system at the Cottonwood Heights location. If someone calls 9-1-1 from the office phone in Houston, it would ring at VECC, which is one of the dispatch centers here in the Salt Lake Valley!  Dynatronics has trained their employees to use their cell phones to make 9-1-1 calls, rather than the landline phones in their offices.

While the technology of cell phones is a convenience that most of us enjoy, please be aware of the potential complications this technology can create and become familiar with the points in this article. Public safety officers will be better able to serve you in a time of crisis if dispatchers receive valid information at the beginning of a 9-1-1 call.