Introduction: When and 'How' to Dial 9.1.1; Before and During

Most all countries have an emergency phone number; in Canada and the USA it's 911; In England 999, Australia 000, and other countries, numbers such as 112, 449, or even 7, 8, or 9-digit numbers are used. Japan uses 119. From herein I'll refer to all emergency agencies as simply '911'.

PMDerinsleep added:
turkish numbers are 112 for ambulance, 155 for police, 110 for fire;
and 156 for 'gendame' (sic), o/a jandarma, which is half-police half-soldier.

This number can be daunting if you're unfamiliar with the system, what the number is used for, as well as how and when to use the number. This instructable aims to inform the reader on how to prepare for an emergency call, what to do when calling, and what is likely expected of the caller. The questions asked will vary by location and 911 service, but most all will ask for the same type of data.

My background: I'm a 911 dispatcher in Canada. I'm one of the thousands of people in the world on the other end of the phone when you have an emergency. I took quite a bit of training in dealing with people, specifically to ascertain information. This information is to get with our motto - to send the right response, to the right place, at the right time, as safely as possible.

This instructable does NOT aim to give any medical or safety instructions pertaining to ANY call types. Not only for reasons of liability, but for your own safety it is best to follow the instructions given by the operator when you call 911. I can with clean conscience suggest that all people get a lifesaving/first aid course and maintain CPR/AED/First Aid certification as per local standards. Brushing up on your local/provincial/state laws regarding protection of good samaritans is also a good idea.

Note - sorry to those who found/are reading this because of the proximity to the 9/11 tragedy, I just looked at the calendar on the computer and it reminded me of what I say 200 times a day at work - and how much I've been meaning to write this instructable.

Step 1: BEFORE You Call - Preparation

Before you have to call 911 there are a few thing you can do to prepare before the emergency to make the response quicker and the event less stressful for you and your family.


Emergency Info Sheet

Remember, this sheet might be used by someone not familiar with your house or area, such as a child, visitor, or neighbor. Rehearse reading this info with children, and keep a copy near each phone, possibly ON each phone. The fridge is a great place to store a copy as well. Whatever you choose, make sure everyone in your family is aware of the location(s).


Compile the following to an info sheet including but not limited to:
italics = optional

Your exact address.
Your phone number.
Driving directions to your location.
A description of the house.
A list of pertinent emergency and non-emergency phone numbers.
Common Name of owner of house/property. (Ex: Everland Estates)
Nearby landmarks. (Ex: Across from the Southridge Pond)
Backup contact info for key-holder. (Ex: Mr. Smith works at XYZ comapny + telephone number)
Any unusual hazards at your location (Ex: Ammo, explosives, non-household chemicals, weapons, high voltage, etc.)

Your exact address:
This is your address in whatever form your municipality/district/county commonly uses. Make sure to include (if appropriate) apartment/house number, road, and bordering intersections.
Ex: Apartment 107 - 4616, 106A ST NW
*106A ST between 46th and 47th AVE*

Your phone number
...kinda goes without saying. Make sure to include area code!

Driving directions to your house
This is CRUCIAL if you live in newer subdivisions, or in rural locations. Phrase them in complete sentences, with specific turns, and distances.
Ex:
*Start at the Kensington drive Mcdonalds heading east on Kensington:*
*go 2km east and turn right into McReary subdivision on 32 ave*
*go 3 blocks south and turn left to McRooney blvd*
*third house on left, number eleventy billion*

Description of your house/area
Be specific, anything that can be quickly used to identify your house
Ex:
*The large brick house on the corner* (assuming there are no other corner brick houses on corners)*
*The house with the red truck* - be sure it's UNIQUE
*The one with the big octagon window out front*

A list of pertinent emergency and non-emergency phone numbers.
This list should/could include:
*Utility company(ies) business-hours and after-hours numbers.
*Nursing medical question hot-line - there are several and they can decide if you need an ambulance or just an aspirin.
*Veterinary clinic 24-hour emergency number. (pets are people too, sadly we don't send ambulances for them)
*City hall numbers for municipal issues
*Call-before-you-dig 1-800 number - you don't want to knock out a city block of telephone lines, I've done it.
*Police Non-emergency number (also called the complaint line)
*Fire Non-emergency number (sometimes direct line to the fire station)
*Medical Non-emergency number (hospital or nursing line)

House Preparation

Signage: Make sure your house number/address is bold and visible from the street, DAY AND NIGHT.  Your emergency crew and/or pizza guy will thank you.  Consider getting a lit up house number sign from a home improvement store, or getting retroflective numbers that glow when any light is shone on the house.  It doesn't do much good to have the right address if the crew cannot tell which house is yours.  A porch light might not cut it if the light is off and you break your leg in the basement - you won't be able to turn it on.  There are options that are solar powered so you don't need to modify your house to install a bright safe light.

Path: This should go without saying, but keep your walkways clear of obstructions and debris.  Have snow/ice cleared regularly.  The emergency crews might need to bring a stretcher into your house, and if they can't get the stretcher inside, it can delay life-saving medical attention.  Crews are at risk on scenes where they don't know the lay of the land - Twisting an ankle because of a hole in the yard or crack in the path is NOT going to help during an emergency.

Step 2: WHEN the Emergency Happens

Not if. When.

Take a deep breath, RELAX, pick up the phone, and dial your emergency number. Speak slowly, and enunciate clearly. Listen to the questions carefully and provide accurate responses.

Be it a fire/rescue emergency, medical emergency, or police emergency, the same crucial information will be required for ANY response.

1. Location, Location, Location. The ambulance is a rolling emergency room.. Various fire trucks can work wonders with countless situations, and Police officers are equipped to handle a multitude of events; but only if they know WHERE the problem is. You will likely be asked to repeat the address to confirm. Errors are NOT an option, and remember if we send the ambulance to thirty-th street instead of thirteen-th street. 10 seconds to repeat the address is FAR less time than it takes to drive 17 blocks the wrong direction, not find the address, then go BACK 17 blocks to the correct address.

2. Phone number you're calling from. Not surprisingly, calls get disconnected, especially cel phones. There are many instances where we have to call back, and the ANI information is incorrect. Once again, confirmation is better than us losing you before we have enough information to respond. Be ready to repeat the number.

3. Tell me exactly what happened. This question seems ambiguous, but really its quite specific. Tell me EXACTLY what happened. Be clear, and concise, and complete.
Bad: "Hi, how's it going?, ya, so I have a problem here, and need help right away. I'm in and theres this guy, and we were playing football, and he walked over, and we stopped playing to talk to him and then he walked away . Then later we were walking home and he was laying on the ground, but we thought he was sleeping. Then we went back out after supper and hes still laying there and I think hes sick.....". Not concise.
Good: "I was walking along and theres a guy on the sidewalk." Not specific.
Best: "I just found a man lying on the sidewalk ... he's not breathing, and I think he may be dead." Plenty of information, but not rambling.



The next questions will entirely pertain to the nature of your emergency: They may not seem pertinent to your exact problem, but they will assist the responding crews by eliminating possible responses. Pay close attention to what is being asked, and answer accurately and concisely. You will likely get questions like:

Medical:
1. Patient age?
2. Status of patient, awake?  Breathing?
These will in the fastest manner possible determine if they need immediate lifesaving instructions (like CPR, defibrilation, heimlich-abdominal thrusts, controlling bleeding etc).

Fire/rescue:
1. Callers name?
2. Safety questions:
>>Are you safe?
>>Is everyone else safe?


Police: LOTS of questions, the more information the better, especially relating to crimes in progress.
I wont go too specific, police generally want the Who, What, When, Where, Why/How and Weapons (safety). - in no particular order.
1.Who: Accused, Victim, Suspects, Witnesses - Through description and identity if possible.
2.What: What happened? Whats happening now? What will happen?
3.When: a robbery is a vastly different priority if it happened yesterday as opposed to in-progress.
4.Where: Location, specifics like where in the building, what room, where in the park, etc.
5.Why/How: What caused it to happen, if its likely to happen again, motivation, etc.
6.Weapons: Crew safety is #1.

Step 3: Useful Background Information

Not many years ago there was no '911' system. There were separate 7-digit phone numbers for each service, each with it's own dispatch. A separate number for police, fire, and ambulance had to be used. There was little in the way of a standard protocol for call-takers to use in order to gather accurate information, and information gathered was rarely shared between services.

This was highly inefficient, as most moderate-to-severe incidents require 2 or 3 of the services to respond (think motor-vehicle crashes; police to secure the scene, control traffic etc, fire to operate rescue equipment/put out fires, and ems to fix people. A better system that has begun to emerge is combined tri-service centres which dispatch all three from the same location. Information travels as fast as a click of a mouse - and everyone gets up-to-date info much faster. Most dispatch centres these days have moved to bi/tri-service, with police sometimes left to a specific separate centre for various reasons such as complexity and security.

With technology ever-improving and tele-com systems upgrading, most 911 centres have moved to enhanced-911 (e-911). This means that when you call, your phone number, and a database entry of your address from the phone company are delivered straight to the dispatcher's computer. This is referred in the industry as Automatic Number Information/Automatic Location Information (ANI/ALI). ANI/ALI Information for the most part is NOT delivered with cel-phones.

The next upgrade being deployed is the ability for the dispatcher to retrieve your GPS location direct from the embedded GPS in a cel-phone. Some areas already have this feature, MOST do NOT. It has been argued by opponents of the system that it invades your privacy - even though it is an option to enable or disable in your phone - it could arguably be abused by police to find suspects etc. Currently where the system is not enabled, the dispatcher is presented with the location of the cel phone tower you're using, and the angle (Azimuth) from the tower to your phone.

See the wikipedia article: e911 for more information.

Step 4: Axioms and Afterthoughts

These are a few tidbits that make the emergency more bearable for all parties involved. They do not apply to ALL situations and locations, but for the most part offer best known practices as of this writing.

When you have an emergency, time seems to stand still.
The response you have requested cannot possibly arrive fast enough. I have personally needed critical medical recussitation for my father in the past, and hearing the sirens in the distance, it felt like they took literally forever. In reality, from the moment I had called the ambulance had been made aware of the emergency, and started driving as soon as they had enough information to respond. While the call-taker is processing your information into the computer, someone else is working with that data to send you the quickest accurate response possible.

If you dialed 9-1-1 in error, do not hang up the telephone.
Instead, stay on the line and explain to the dispatcher that you dialed by mistake and that you do not have an emergency. You will not get in trouble. If you hang up, a dispatcher will call back to confirm that there is no emergency. If you don't answer, a police officer must be dispatched to confirm that you are OK. This will needlessly take resources away from genuine emergencies.

Do NOT hang up until the dispatcher tells you to.
Critical information that you may not have considered pertinent may have been occluded, resulting in wasted time having to call back.

911 is NOT, and I cannot stress this enough, NOT 411. We do not have xyz phone number. If you don't have a phone book or access to the internet for a directory listing, call 411 or the operator (0).

Do not program 911 into your speed dial
This seems counter-intuitive, but really 911 is very fast to dial by itself - even on a rotary phone. Having a speed dial button assigned to 911 is only inviting accidentally mis-dialing.

Take the battery out if you give an old phone as a toy for a child
When I started it amazed me how many people give their children functional, de-activated cel phones. What they don't realize is that any cel phone, hooked up or not, bill paid or not can still dial. The feds put this in as safety legislation when mobile phones were introduced. It's only a matter of time before the kids will dial through and start a huge investigation of the 'noise in the background'.

After you hang up with the dispatcher (edit, thanks v2vfd for reminder)
You will likely be told a variety of scene preparation instructions. These include, but are NOT limited to:

Medical:
-Unlock the door.
-Turn on any outside lights.
-If possible, have someone meet the crew; but do not leave the patient alone.
-Put away any family pets. I know you love sharing your dog/cat/alligator but there is a more important task at hand ;-)

Fire:
-Leave the area immediately.
-Do not carry out anything that is on fire.
-Get others out to safety.
-Assign someone to guide the emergency crews in.
-Do NOT attempt to extinguish the fire, or go back in for possessions.

Police: - There are a hundred instructions, and they apply to very specific situations.
basically...
-First priority:  Stay safe - hide, be quiet, and/or lock the door.
-Second priority:  Preserve evidence - the scene, or clothing etc.  Do not touch ANYTHING!



When should/shouldn't I call? What qualifies as an emergency?
This is a touchy subject, and anywhere that could possibly need a disclaimer is here. I take no responsibility for the colloquial accuracy of this information. Wherever you are it's probably different from here, so these are guidelines. Bottom line is if you aren't sure, call.

Unnecessary calls waste limited resources, but it is far safer to call and be wrong, than not call and suffer irrevocable consequences of said delay.
When determined to be non-emergency, call the local listing for the service you require. Some examples of non-emergency calls include but are not limited to:

-Power outage.
-Property damage incident.
-Crimes that occurred in the past and the suspect is long gone.
-Hurt wild animal.
-Basement flooding with water
-Cat in a tree - some agencies still send a fire truck to provide this service, some do not, but it is NOT a 911 emergency. Also, whether they use a ladder or a hose is up to them ;-) There's a reason you'll never find a cat skeleton in a tree.

All of the above are definitely incidents that may require a response, but have a better option than 911, be it the power company, police incident complaint line, or bylaw/wildlife enforcement agency.

Emergency calls include:
-Any situation that is not tended to in an immediate fashion will result in serious damage or injuries, loss of life or property, or escalation of X situation.
-Any crime in progress, whether someone is hurt or not.

Thanks for reading - Please vote! Good or bad, I'd like to know what you think!

Comments

author
Eunix made it! (author)2013-05-27

Whoa ! 1,550 views and no favorites?
Then I'll be the first to favorite this.
BTW great instructable!

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2013-05-28

The favourite system was phased in some time last year when they phased out 'vote out of 5 stars' - so now the view count is much lower per unit time...It was highly rated at the time - but that is gone :D

Thanks for the comment!

author
geewizartcool made it! (author)2013-05-10

Awesome. This really needed to be said. I am an EMT in Kansas (other wise known as basic paramedic outside the US). One thing that could really help you out if you have an emergency at your home is a more visible house number. You can get the light up solar kind that sits out in your yard or you could add glow in the dark paint. There is also some kind of paint you can put over the numbers on your house that is clear during the day but at night when we put our spotlight on it it shines like the sun, i have a feeling its probably a scotch brite product but let me tell you, it makes finding that house at 3am so much faster.

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2013-05-10

I'm going to add this -- It's all well and good to know where you are if where you are is nondescript :D

Thanks for the tip!
*As I dispatch, I hate having the crews come back and say "none of the houses have numbers"...really adds delay to the process.

author
rrrmanion made it! (author)2012-01-15

definitely worth reading. I volunteer as a first aider at British Red Cross, I will tell one of the trainers about this, as more information about what to say when making the call would be helpful, they only say to remain calm and be specific that the casualty is not breathing in their basic life support course (which mainly consists of CPR)

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2012-01-15

Thanks for the comment: it's true. The sooner we get the information needed to begin lifesaving instructions the better.

author
porcupinemamma made it! (author)2010-03-05

I am an EMT, and I was incredibly frustrated and angry when I called 911 . My friend had a compromised airway, was diaphoretic, poor cap refill and had severe chest pain. I was extremley clear about the situation and yet the 911 operator constantly asked me the same questions over and over, wasting precious time. The paramedic that arrived had the nerve to tell me that my friend probably had indegestion. Later, my best friend died. This was a priority one situation, and yet I was treated like I was calling in about a hang nail. It's my policy to be positive and kind when I make comments on the Instructables board, but I had to voice my extreme concern. 

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2012-01-05

I never noticed this message so long ago, sorry for late reply;

It's helpful and harmful when you have more information than is required -- yes, I agree all the symptoms you mentioned are pri-1. Only problem lies in that most, and I must emphasize most (>90%) of comms folk worldwide are not medically trained. Nobody's perfect and I can't comment to your case obviously but there is certain information that has to come in the right order -- hence why this instructable doesn't teach the questions.

In an emergency situation, we need very few things to get a pre-alert out, namely location, preferably phone, and general idea of what's going on. The rest is serial linear questioning to stay on track -- extra information out of order can HURT the process.

for example, when I get a call from a doctor/nurse and I ask tell me exactly what happened, they volunteer at the start "my pt is diaphoretic, poor cap refill, a/o 2/4, sat 67, bp 190/100, high potassium, hasn't had a bowel movement in 3 days", none of that is a direct answer to a question that we can reasonably assume. I'll do my best to remember it, but the start of a call I'm pressing for priority symptoms. If they just said "chest pain" or heart attack off the get-go, then we've saved 20 seconds of dialogue. A question with a clear answer already volunteered can be considered answered but like I said before, if the answer was not the target of a previous question it's information easily lost.

As for asking 'the same questions' then that's just poor communication. I would put forward an inquiry to that call to see if procedure was followed.

author
porcupinemamma made it! (author)porcupinemamma2012-01-05

Thanks Frolard,
It's far too late, and still a very painful memory. I miss my friend very much. Basically I gave the info you described and stuck to address, phone number airway breathing and circulation, but probably with too much info since I immediately kicked into EMT mode, and I knew my friend was in crisis.

It also happened in Canada, back when there were just "ambulance attendents" with very basic training (couldn't hang IV's, couldn't intabate etc.) and most Canadians did not know what an EMT was. This is not a bash at Canada-it's just the way it was. I was trained in the USA where the program spinned off of Vietnam medic training during the war.

Training has come a very long way in Canada since my friend died. I can certainly see where you are coming from, and what you say makes sense. I will remember what you have told me. Thank you very very much for listening, and helping.

Thank you also for posting your Instructable.

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2012-01-05

Again, I'm sorry for your loss -- that sounds like quite some time ago, and I hope things (industry) have improved since then -- all our 'rules' are written in blood, unfortunately something bad had to happen to lead things to how they are today.

author
porcupinemamma made it! (author)porcupinemamma2012-01-05

Thanks for spending your time to help me work through this-I never really did until now.

author
FlatLinerMEDIC made it! (author)FlatLinerMEDIC2012-01-03

Anaphlaphteic shock?...cant spell yew kno what i mean.. Paramedic got charge for neglect huh?

author
porcupinemamma made it! (author)2012-01-03

When the ambulance has been dispatched, and iIf possible, have someone other than the person staying with the patient quickly flash the front porch lights on and off. It really helps the driver figure out where to head. If someone else is able to stand at the end of the driveway and wave their arms, it's also really helpful.

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2012-01-04

A waver is definitely a plus!

author
FlatLinerMEDIC made it! (author)2012-01-03

Mexico. 066 police, Mex-065, Fire 068

HAZMAT - chemtec- 866-222-2177 US and MX

author
alexpja made it! (author)2009-08-17

in poland, 997 is police, 998 is fire, and 999 is hospital sources: my mother (im 100% polish, born in chicago...)

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2009-08-18

Thanks for the info!

author
alexpja made it! (author)alexpja2009-08-19

No prob.

author
dehlome made it! (author)dehlome2011-01-08

What about your mother?

author
asasklfjklasfkljasklfjaklfsjkl made it! (author)2011-01-01

Read this about a year ago and thought I'd never need it.

At my work, a dairy (convenience store), one of the pie warmers caught fire and I had to ring 111.

These instructions helped a lot when talking to the operator! Your quote of: "When you have an emergency, time seems to stand still." was true!

Thanks!

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2011-01-01

Glad it helped! How did your disaster turn out?

author

Well it was rather interesting. We were standing outside the shop while all of this smoke billowing out of the door, and we had a lot of customers walk past and ask 'What did you do". No permanent damage was done. The firemen took the pie warmer out side to inspect it (see photo)

After an electrician looked over the pie warmer, it turns out that the previous electrician ran the live wire right beside the heater element!

IMG_0217.JPG
author
aramanthe made it! (author)2010-05-27

Does your agency use the ProQA system? I recognize some of the questioning and wording from the system.

I'm a 911 dispatcher in Texas and this is definitely a helpful 'able. Our city recently transferred to a consolidated dispatch center; we have Ambulance, Fire, Police, and Animal control dispatchers in the same room as calltakers. After we did that, the city sent out a newsletter in the water bills with tips on how to call 911 and what to do, what info to have, etc. I wish they would've sent this out instead! 

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2010-05-28

*and welcome to instructables!

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2010-05-28

Thanks for the kind words!

cypm

author
looking4ideas made it! (author)2008-12-04

its not spelled gendame its jandarma =P

author
porcupinemamma made it! (author)porcupinemamma2010-03-05

 instead of publically pointing  out the author's spelling errors, use the private message option, or better still, look past the error and appreciate the core message of the posted instructable.

author
looking4ideas made it! (author)looking4ideas2010-03-07

 it wasn't a attack on his spelling its a Turkish word i dont expect him to know it i was just telling him the correct way of writing a foreign word. 

author
porcupinemamma made it! (author)porcupinemamma2010-03-07

"discression" is the operative word.  Enough said.

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2008-12-05

Definitely good to know...

author
Warlrosity made it! (author)2009-08-21

What is 911?

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2009-08-22

Where are you from Mr.Pug? 911 is the emergency phone number in USA and Canada. In England, 999. Many different countries use a different short number to get help on the phone.

author
caarntedd made it! (author)caarntedd2010-03-05

I'm in the Sydney area in Australia, our number is 000, as you said earlier.
If you dial 000 and don't do/say anything, the fire brigade turns up.

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2010-03-06

I was speaking to a new friend in Austrailia just last night about this, 112 is regular police fire ambulance and 000 is wildfires...neat stuff!

author
caarntedd made it! (author)caarntedd2010-03-07

Everything is 000 where I am. (Sydney) 112 works from mobile (cell) phones even if they are locked. Also I think there is a new system (don't know if it has been implemented anywhere yet) where dialing any one of the emergency numbers that you have mentioned here, including 112, will automatically divert to 000.
We get alot of US television here, and itis amazing how many people try to call 911. (By the way I am a firefighter).

Where is your new friend located?

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2010-03-07

I believe in the far south, I don't recall exactly - it was a quick video game chat about it.

author
Warlrosity made it! (author)Warlrosity2009-08-22

Oh, whoops.Australia,

author
frollard made it! (author)2010-01-09

The only piece of advice I can really really give that is universal to every situation - since each dispatch center does it differently -- Know where you are.  If you're visiting somewhere, note where its written, or get it written by the phone.  If you're driving, set/reset your odometer often to say "I'm x kilometers outside of y town" rather than 'somewhere past x'

author
frollard made it! (author)2010-01-09

speed dials to various dispatch centers, fire stations, and other emergency services like translation services, utilities, poison control - etc.

author
frollard made it! (author)2009-10-16

Glad you think so!  Tell your friends!

author
Gorfram made it! (author)2009-03-28

Thanks for writing this - it's vey helpful & good stuff to know. Something I've always wondered (since 9-1-1 service started, anyway) - why is it different in different countries? Getting two sovererign nations to agree on anything at all is tricky, I know; but I evny the British only having to dial one easy-to-find numeral three times - I worry that I'd be too klutzy to find the "1" button after managing the "9," in the case that the person trying to rob me during a building fire suddenly started having convulsions (or whatever other 911-worthy scenario springs to mind).

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2009-03-28

In North America - 911 was one of the last 'untaken' area codes :D Just ironic they came up with the poles on the phone dial.

author
Chromatica made it! (author)Chromatica2009-07-22

so you are a 911 operator

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2009-07-24

Indeed I am!

author
Derin made it! (author)2008-09-20

turkish numbers are 112 for ambulance 155 for police 110 for fire And 156 for gendame,which is half-police half-soldier.

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2008-09-22

Thanks again!

author
Derin made it! (author)Derin2008-09-22

your welcome,although nobody probably cares:)

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2008-09-23

Information is power. Never forget that ;)

author
tech-king made it! (author)tech-king2009-01-15

so im all powerful?? bwahahahahahaha

author
frollard made it! (author)frollard2009-01-15

only if you're all-information(ul) :D

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