Sacramento Police Department

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

911 FAQ

When should I use 911?

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about 911 is when to use it. It is not meant to be used to contact the police department about routine matters. 911 is solely used to report emergencies.

What Is An Emergency?

An emergency is when IMMEDIATE Police, Fire Department, or Paramedic Assistance is necessary to protect life or property.

To give you a better idea of when to use 911 here some examples:

Call 911:

  • To report a fire
  • To stop a crime
  • To save a life

Don't call 911:

  • Delayed reports where a crime has occurred and the offenders are no longer on the scene
  • Nuisance calls (i.e., barking dogs, landscape and construction noise)
  • To obtain information from the police department
  • To speak with an officer
  • Non emergency situations

911 is to report emergencies only.

For reporting non emergencies or if you need need basic information call (916) 264-5471.

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Can I still get 911 if I dial the operator?

No. You get connected to a 7 digit emergency line. We do not get your address or phone number on this line. (Many of us did not have 911 when we grew up and we would call the operator who would then transfer us to police, fire, or ambulance when needed.) By not dialing 911 it slows down the process by preventing us from simply verifying your address. When you call in an emergency, you are often upset, afraid, and not always thinking rationally. As a result you will sometimes forget your address, and we cannot get help to you until that address is determined.

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What happens when I call 911 accidentally and hang up?

The dispatcher will try to call you back. If the dispatcher reaches a child on the phone, he/she will ask to speak to an adult. An officer will be dispatched to the residence if no adult can be reached. If no one answers, an officer will be dispatched. If the line is busy, the dispatcher will attempt to break through with the help of an operator to see if it was a misdial or there is an emergency needing help.

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Why can't you just take my non-emergency call on 911 when we are both on the line already?

We only have a limited number of incoming 911 lines for the entire city. Any major incident will cause numerous lines to ring regarding this one incident. (Large fire, major traffic accident, etc.) Those lines can get tied up quickly. If we are taking your non-emergency call also on 911, a real emergency caller may be forced to wait for a line to be freed before we can help them with their life and death emergency.

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How are you able know my address and phone number when I call?

We have what is called "E911" or enhanced 911 capabilities at our center. That means that our computer-aided dispatch system has a link to the local telephone company's computer.When we answer the phone, a computer display shows the billing name, address, and number of the telephone on the other end.

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You already know my address and phone number, so why do you ask me again?

Computers are wonderful, but not perfect. They do make mistakes, so we must ask just to make sure. Another possibility, is that many people call from a neighbor's house, so we don't want to send help to the wrong place and waste precious time.

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Why do you ask so many questions when I call 911?

We ask questions pertaining to the location of an incident and descriptions of vehicles and people involved. Often we ask for descriptions of the victim's clothing as well as the suspect's clothing. This is to make sure that the officers who respond know which people are which. At times we also need to know if a crime is still occurring, or if it has occurred some time ago, in order to judge if the suspects are still near the crime scene, or if the officers need to go searching for them.

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Why can't you just send help instead of keeping me on the phone?

In an emergency, you are likely to be very upset or even frantic. But remember that most often while you are speaking to the call-taker, help is being dispatched, and may be enroute to your location. Sometimes the call-taker will keep you on the phone to try to keep you calm and occupied until help arrives. Sometimes they will even tell you what you can do to help the victim until help arrives. The best thing you can do is to be responsive and don't try to fight the call-taker or hang up on him or her. If you've hung up before all the necessary information is relayed, you may delay the arrival of help!

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Why do you ask me the same questions repeatedly?

We try to be as efficient and quick as possible. The only time we repeat questions is when the caller is too frantic to be understood. We understand that when a crisis occurs it's human nature to get upset, but when you scream, cry, or curse at us and we can't get the necessary information, you are just delaying the help you desperately need. Try to speak clearly and answer our questions completely.

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