Inside your county government Know what to do before dialing 911
Emergencies can occur during any season. Before traveling, having fun, and exercising this summer, teach your family the importance of 911 and what to do when you call.
911 communications dispatchers are trained, licensed professionals who can help you during an emergency. To help the dispatchers provide the best quality service to you, remember to be patient, stay calm, and speak clearly through the call.
When calling 911, keep in mind these three important answers you will need to provide: • Location of the emergency • Phone number you’re calling from
• Brief description of what happened
Pay attention to the dispatcher’s questions and respond clearly, answering all questions, no matter how necessary they may or may not seem to you. Remember, in most cases, help is already on the way as the dispatcher asks you questions and gather information. Dispatchers are trained to ask the questions necessary to determine the type of medical, police, or fire response for your particular emergency. Tips when calling 911: 1) Use a landline, if possible, because cell phones do not always provide addresses or phone numbers. Do not delay calling to find a landline phone.
2) If calling from a cell phone, study your surroundings so you can explain your location.
3) Call 911 right away if you or someone else is facing a situation that can pose an immediate risk to health, life, property, or the environment.
4) If you call 911 by accident, stay on the line. When the dispatcher answers, tell them the call was accidental. Otherwise, unnecessary emergency help may be sent.
5) Post your phone number and address by the telephone or on the refrigerator. It is not uncommon to forget this information in an emergency situation. A child calling 911 may not remember this information unless it is written down. Emergency responders cannot help you if they cannot find you.
6) Put your house/apartment/ condo number on your home’s front, outside wall, or curb to aid responders.
7) Provide information in a controlled voice. The dispatcher understands any fears you may be feeling, and will do their best to help you stay calm.
8) If you have trouble answering the dispatcher questions, hand the phone to someone else at the scene, if possible.
9) Remain on the line until the dispatcher says it’s okay to end the call.
Teach your children the importance of 911, and provide examples of when they should call, such as when they smell smoke. Make sure your children know their address and phone number. Teach through repetition or use a creative song or rhyme. Instruct your children to call only when there is an actual emergency, and remind them that 911 is not a toy.
Prepare your family before an emergency occurs. Our 911 dispatchers are here to support and help you and your family.
William Stephens is the Charles County director of the department of emergency services.