Call 9-1-1 FIRST!

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9-1-1 101

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The 4-1-1 on 9-1-1

9-1-1 is intended to be used for emergencies.  Barking dogs, loud music, and other routine calls should be placed on the seven digit number to your local law enforcement agency.  Find those numbers, and put them in your speed dials and memory slots, and they’ll be available when you want them.

If you need an ambulance, or a fire truck, or see a crime in progress, THAT’s when you dial 9-1-1.  If you’re in doubt, err on the side of caution, and dial 9-1-1.  There is no charge, and you won’t get in trouble if you don’t really have an emergency but called anyway.

Here’s a little known fact about 9-1-1:  it’s not one big room, with everybody’s 9-1-1 line going there.  We can’t stand up and yell “Hey!  Boston!  Line 2!” (thanks, Linda – I love that image!)  Another little known fact:  in all but the biggest cities, the same people who answer the seven digit numbers answer the 9-1-1 lines.  The thing is, 9-1-1 lines have priority.  And they are limited in number.  If you’re calling in on one for something that is NOT an emergency, you are tying up a line that someone else may need.  You’re also tying up an operator who may be delayed answering the next 9-1-1 line for a real emergency.

When you call 9-1-1 about, say, a traffic accident, and it’s taking forever for someone to answer, it’s most likely due to everyone else around you also calling on their phones, and we’re working our way through multiple reports about the same incident.  Don’t hang up and dial again, that just puts you at the end of the line.  The phones are all computers now, and they line up the calls in the order they are received.

When you dial 9-1-1 from your cell phone, here’s the most important thing you need to know:


9-1-1, It’s Not Just A Job, It’s A Mystery!

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1st mystery of 9-1-1: Why are you whispering??  Odds are very good “they” couldn’t hear you if you were screaming, and they’re probably too busy fighting with each other to notice you’ve left the room.  When I ask you to speak up, that doesn’t mean “speak even quieter!”  You called for help, but you’re on your cell phone, the signal is crappy, and they’re not designed to compensate for low voice levels.  You’re already in the same house, they’re going to know who called when the police show up, so whispering really doesn’t do anything to insure “they don’t know” you’re calling!   I can’t help you if I can’t hear you!  There’s no address information from a cell phone, and the location technology isn’t reliable.  Oh, I might know where you are, within a 1/2 mile or so, but if there’s anyone else there, or you’re in, say, an apartment complex…   well, you could be SOL.  Speak up!

2nd mystery of 9-1-1:  I understand you being upset that the neighbor’s music is loud, even inside your house.  I understand that you “can’t hear your own television” over the noise.  What I don’t understand is why you ask me “not to put it out over the radio, because they have a scanner”.  If YOU can’t hear YOUR television over the noise, how in the heck are THEY going to hear the scanner??  So, yes, the call is going out over the radio.  If they have a scanner that can outmuscle that powerful of a stereo, I WANT ONE!   And secondly, if they do manage to hear the scanner, and turn down the music before we get there, then your problem has been solved!  Either way, you win!

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