If You Must Call 911, Know Where You Are

Jim Luff
Posted on July 16, 2014
If you have the need to call 911, chances are you are going to be under pressure, stressed out and not having a good day. Before calling 911, take a moment to take a deep breath and get yourself together.  

 
Hillary Luff, my wife and 911 Supervisor for the Kern County (CA) Emergency Communications Center, offers several tips to help get help to you faster.
 
No. 1: Let the dispatcher control the conversation. While you might think she is staying on the phone too long and not sending help, 911 responses are a team effort. The moment you say you need an ambulance and provide a location, another dispatcher is getting that ambulance going even though you may have only been on the phone for seconds. The dispatcher you are talking to is your lifeline. Others are sending help.
 
No. 2: Know the exact location you are calling from. If it is not a street address and you are in the middle of nowhere, provide GPS coordinates. Make sure that you have Location Services turned ON. Make sure you have the compass application turned on or download a compass app. This will give you your GPS coordinates. Contrary to popular belief, unless the city you are in has Phase II 911, your dispatcher cannot "see you" on a map. They CAN help you read your coordinates from your phone and send help.  
 
No. 3: Repeat your location TWICE! Even if she didn't hear you the first time, she can play back a recording and if you say it twice, she should be able to get it from one statement or the other. Your location is the most important part of getting help to you.
 
No. 4: Make sure you provide the phone number you are calling from. Don't give your home phone number, your work number or any other number other than the one you are calling from. If you get disconnected, the operator will CALL YOU BACK. If you miss this step, chances are they will have it from a Caller ID screen.
 
No. 5: Provide your name
 
No. 6: Tell the dispatcher exactly what has happened that caused you to call. Make sure you tell the dispatcher of any hazards that first responders may encounter such as vicious dogs, gas leaks, live power lines down etc.
 
No. 7: Stay on the phone until you are told it is okay to hang up.

Related Topics: emergency preparedness, Jim Luff, passenger safety, Safety, vehicle safety

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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