All You Need to Know About 911

Anytime someone has the need to dial 911, it is most likely during one of the most stressful and difficult times in their lives. Whether it is you or someone you love experiencing a medical emergency, you or your neighbor’s home is on fire, your home has been burglarized, or you have just witnessed or been involved in car accident on the highway, trained professionals are on duty 24 hours a day to take your call and get help on the way as soon as possible.
  1. How 911 Calls are Answered
  2. Questions to Expect
  3. Tips If You Need to Dial 911
  4. When to Call 911
In St. Charles County, all 911 calls are initially answered by one of several police departments in the county. If you are calling for a medical or fire emergency, those police agencies will transfer your 911 call to the St. Charles County Department of Emergency Communications, which dispatches all fire and EMS units throughout the county, as well as six law enforcement agencies (three agencies and three contract departments handled through the St. Charles County Police Department).

Whether you are calling for a law enforcement, fire or EMS emergency, the professionals who answer your call are trained to keep you calm, gather the necessary information regarding the incident, and dispatch the appropriate emergency responders and equipment. In many cases, the 911 operator will remain on the line with you until help arrives to either help keep you calm or possibly walk through potential lifesaving steps, such as administering CPR to a victim of cardiac arrest. 

Calling 911 from a Landline or Cell Phone


One of the first questions a 911 operator will ask a caller is “Where are you calling from?” This is probably the single most important question a 911 caller is asked. If the operator knows where you are calling from, they can at least get someone on the way to check on you, even if they don’t know the exact nature of why you are calling.  

With cell phones, knowing where you are calling from is becoming more and more important. When someone calls 911 from a hard-wired phone, a computer tells the operator the exact address where that phone is installed, which is not the case when dialing 911 from a cell phone. Although location accuracy is getting better when a 911 call is made from a cell phone, it is not perfect. Location accuracy is dependent on the type of phone and the environment in which the call is made. Assume the 911 operator does not know your location, even if the cell phone is able to provide location information. Chances are the responders will need more details.