Dispatchers and emergency call takers are the first line of communication when individuals call 911 to report an emergency. These calls directly affect not only the reporting party but the emergency personnel that are required to respond. Communication Centers across the country receive millions of calls for service a year; however, not all of these are considered true emergencies. The more time and manpower used to filter these non-essential calls, and the misuse of 911, heavily impacts those incidents that genuinely need the presence of firefighters, emergency medical personnel, and/or law enforcement. The main goal to ensure proper response is to learn how to use 911 and to teach others not to flood or overload the 911 system with non-emergency calls.


Types of 911 Calls


misuse and abuse of 911

Unintentional 911 Calls: Inadvertently dialing 911, phantom wireless calls, misdials, hang-ups.

Non-emergency 911 Calls: Reporting an incident that requires police attention but is not an emergency.

Prank 911 Calls: Falsely claiming an emergency or deliberately hanging up.

Exaggerated 911 Calls: Intentionally exaggerating the seriousness of an emergency to get a quicker response.

Lonely Complaint 911 Calls: Typically made by the live-alone elderly or mentally ill that actually believe there is an emergency.


How Does it Work?


misuse and abuse of 911

When you have an emergency, calling 911 can be a nerve wracking experience. If you are in a true crisis that calls for the need of emergency personnel, you will be feeling several emotions such as fear, panic, anxiety, and confusion, and getting the pertinent information across to the call taker on the other end of the line can be difficult and overwhelming. Trying to remain calm and collected will not only help you but also the 911 call taker to correctly relay your location, type of emergency, and other details to emergency responders. The process that begins once you call 911 is as follows:

  • Call-takers answer phone calls made by the public.
  • The nature of the incident is then determined.
  • The information provided is transferred into the computer aided dispatch system that the dispatchers use to select the proper actions to be taken.
  • Emergency personnel relies on that information to prepare their response.
  • Emergency responders will begin making their way to the caller’s location to provide assistance.

When Should 911 be Used?


misuse and abuse of 911

In the United States, approximately 240 million 911 calls are made each year. Believe it or not, people have actually called 911 for incidents like an incorrect fast food order. This is not an emergency and does not require emergency responders. Calls like these take up time and use resources from the call takers and dispatchers that are trying to make themselves available for those with real emergencies. Calling 911 should strictly be reserved for:

  • Serious medical emergencies
  • Any type of fire
  • Any crime in progress
  • Life threatening situations

You should not use 911 for:

  • General information
  • Directory assistance
  • Driving directions
  • Paying traffic tickets
  • Pet emergencies
  • Out of boredom
  • To do a prank

How Should 911 be Used?


misuse and abuse of 911

  • Gather all the necessary information of the emergency you are calling 911 for before calling.
  • Dial 911 and have the information that you wish to provide ready.
  • Listen carefully and answer all the questions asked by the call taker the best you can.
  • Try to remain calm (we understand that some situations are chaotic and stressful).
  • Speak clearly and loud enough to hear (it will take up unnecessary time if the call-taker has to keep asking you to repeat yourself).
  • Know the location of the incident (if you don’t know the exact address, look for landmarks or street signs).
  • Give accurate facts (do not make up details about the incident, if you aren’t sure, tell the call taker that you do not know).
  • Do not hang up (it is important to stay on the phone with the call-taker as situations may change while emergency personnel is on the way and they will need to give real-time details to them).
  • Follow directions (the call-taker may instruct you to attempt life-saving efforts on a victim and can walk you through the steps over the phone).
  • Teach your children how to properly use 911 (have them memorize their address and know their parent’s names).
  • *If you or your child dials 911 by mistake, do not hang up. The call-takers will have to send responders to check on you. Instead, simply explain that is was accidental.

If you are ever in a situation that is truly believed to be an emergency, call 911. However, if you need law enforcement, fire department, or emergency medical response, but for a non-emergency situation, look up the number for the non-emergency line in your area.

Teaching children about calling 911 is important as well as teaching them about police and firefighters. Explain to them that Firefighters are Your Friends using the great tips from this Daily Mom.
Avoid Misusing and Abusing 911

Source: 9-1-1 Statistics
Information contained in this post does not constitute legal advice and should not be substituted for professional legal counsel. Daily Mom is not liable for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.