When to Call 9-1-1
Only call 9-1-1 during an EMERGENCY. An emergency is a life-threatening situation, crime in-progress, or serious crime that has just occurred. Obviously, there are other situations that require Law enforcement, Fire, or medical response but are not really appropriate for 9-1-1. In situations such as these, locate the non-emergency phone number for the appropriate agency/jurisdiction where the situation is or has occurred.
When You Call 9-1-1
Be ready to answer the following questions:
- WHERE is the incident occurring?
- WHAT is happening?
- PROVIDE vehicle descriptions, suspect descriptions, and weapons information.
Please answer the questions as calmly, directly, and accurately as possible and be patient; just because you are being asked questions by a dispatcher, it does not mean that help is not on its way. Often your information is being taken by a call-taker and the radio dispatcher has already started the help you need. The call-taker will continue to ask questions and the radio dispatcher will update the responding personnel with the information you are providing.
Accidental Dialing of 9-1-1
If you misdial 9-1-1, DO NOT HANG UP. Stay on the line and tell the dispatcher what happened. The dispatcher will ask some clarification questions to ensure that the information on the 9-1-1 screen is correct.
If you do hang up, the dispatcher has to call you back or send an officer to your location to conduct a welfare check. This ties up resources that could be sent to real emergencies.
Calling 9-1-1 from a Landline
Landline phones in the jurisdiction of Contra Costa County will be routed to the Office of the Sheriff's Dispatch Center. The dispatcher will determine the nature of the emergency and start law enforcement or transfer you to the appropriate allied dispatch center. Your address should show up on our 9-1-1 screen, however, be ready to confirm it as we want to be sure that help is being sent to the correct address/location.
Calling 9-1-1 from a Cellular Phone
Cellular phones do not work the same as landline phones. Dispatchers have to rely on the location data provided by the cell tower your call hits. You must assume that the dispatcher does not know where you are when you call. The dispatcher may receive a general area based on the geographical coordinates provided by the cell tower. Usually, the location is not specific enough for patrol units to do more than an area check for someone in distress. It is highly important that you stay on the line and provided you location.
Calling from a VOIP (Broadband) Phone
VOIP service may have many cost saving advantages and may give you the mobility to take your phone service via laptop or desktop anywhere. This, however, can cause major problems for 9-1-1 services. Typically, the address provided on our 9-1-1 screen by the carrier is the billing address registered with your service provider, NOT your actual location. So, with VOIP, you could be dialing 9-1-1 from New York City, but your call will be sent to the 9-1-1 dispatch center for the jurisdiction where your service is registered. This WILL at best delay emergency response, and it could make it impossible to get you the help you need. Again, it is highly important that you stay on the line and provide your location and keep your VOIP carrier updated with your current address should you move or are traveling using VOIP.
The Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff 9-1-1 dispatch team is committed to helping protect and serve our community. We work hand-in-hand with the patrol teams responding in the field. We are highly trained members of the department. Some of us are S.W.A.T. tactical dispatchers and Communications Training Officers. For us, time is always of the essence.
With this in mind, there may be times when you have contact with a dispatcher and you wonder why they are being blunt or direct, and interrupting your story. We do this because we are asking questions, clarifying information and focusing on the essential facts of a situation. By doing this, we can better prioritize and supply real time information to field units. Please do not confuse our directness with rudeness.
The dispatch center is an intense multitasking environment with a very dynamic role in law enforcement. The safety of the public and law enforcement personnel is our first priority. We ask that you take into consideration that often there are more 9-1-1 and nonemergency phone calls coming into the dispatch center than there are dispatchers to answer the calls. When this happens, you can expect to be placed on hold multiple times so the dispatcher can evaluate other incoming calls to ensure they do not require immediate assistance, as there are times when emergencies are reported on non-emergency lines.
Remember, the dispatchers that are answering non-emergency calls are also the 9-1-1 dispatchers answering the life and death calls for service.
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"9-1-1, what is your emergency..."