Not long ago I wrote about trouble I had calling 911. I ended up talking to four operators and being hung up on. It happens, we’re all human. I’ve called 911 a few dozen times in my life mainly because I witness car accidents or impaired drivers. I understand that not everyone feels as comfortable as I do when talking to emergency operators.
Before we get into the specifics, understand that 911 isn’t going to magically solve your crisis. You’re still going to be in the developing emergency situation. Your safety is still your responsibility. When you get clear of the danger, keep calm and call 911 for help.
So here’s what you need to say when you call 911:
Nature of the emergency - Be concise. Don’t tell the story of a car going all over the road and acting like an idiot. Simply state that you think there is an impaired driver who you’ve witnessed swerving in and out of lanes.
Location of the emergency - If you know the address of the emergency, great. If you don’t know, then give a detailed description of the area. Include details like store names, shopping centers or intersections. If you’re calling for a mobile phone, do not assume that the operator knows where you are, tell them your location.
Who needs to respond - Sometimes the operator will ask you what type of response is needed meaning police, fire, medical or all of them.
Details about suspects - If you witness a crime try to give an accurate description of who you saw commit the crime. Give the operator details like gender, ethnicity, clothing, any notable distinguishing details and whether they are armed.
Details about victims - Operators don’t expect you to be a detective or a doctor, but if you know people are hurt do your best to tell them how many are hurt, if these injuries seem to be sever and where they are located.
Callback number - Know a good number the operators can reach you on if you are disconnected or if a first responder needs to contact you about being a witness.
Contact after the event - You can decide to be contacted by law enforcement after the emergency if you wish.
Understand that every emergency call center is different and they may ask you different questions, but the basics remain the same: type of emergency, location and current situation. Being clear is the most important part you play in the call. Speak slowly and remember to breathe.
If you don’t know the answer to a question, then say so. You’re not going to be graded on your performance. Don’t try and guess at an answer, if you don’t know an answer, there is no shame in admitting that. Operators would rather you pass on a question than give incorrect/false information.
Make sure to listen carefully to what the operator is saying to you. They may ask you more questions or even tell you to leave the scene. These operators are specially trained to help you in these moments of fear, you can trust them.
Never assume that someone else is going to call for help. Be brave enough to make that call, someone’s life may depend on it. I hope you don’t have to call 911, but if you do remain calm and give as much information as you can. For more on family safety, consider The Secure Dad Newsletter.
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