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.
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.
The call taker will always ask you to say the address of the emergency and your callback number for verification. The call taker will ask you to repeat the address in the interest of accuracy. You must remember that the efficiency of emergency services depends upon the information received, and that includes an address or some way to identify a location that does not have an exact address, such as a railroad crossing, playground or open field.
After the address and callback telephone number have been verified, the call taker will ask you four universal questions. These questions, listed below, are based on the patient's medical condition and will help organize and send the assistance required:
"What's the problem, tell me exactly what happened?"
"How old is she/he?"
"Is she/he conscious?"
"Is she/he breathing?"
Exchanging this critical information with the call taker typically takes less than 30 seconds. After that, you may be asked to do nothing except wait for help to arrive, or the call taker may tell you to move to a safe environment (in case of severe weather or building fire, for example), or to assist in providing emergency care to the ill or injured person until help arrives.
- Know where you are calling from.
- Know the phone number you are calling from.
- STAY CALM.
- Let the 911 operator guide the conversation. Wait for them to ask questions and then be prepared to give clear calm answers.
- Follow all instructions given by the 911 operator.
- Stay alert—the 911 operator will ask lots of questions about what you see, hear, etc., concerning the incident or victim(s).
- DO NOT hang up unless instructed to do so by the 911 operator.
Other things to remember:
- 911 should be used for emergencies only, including serious medical problems (chest pains), life threatening situations (person with weapons), fires or crimes in progress.
- If you are not sure, call 911. If you think you or someone else is experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 immediately and let the dispatch center and other emergency service professionals help you. Never be afraid to dial 911 because of uncertainty.
- Be ready to give medical information and describe any person (male, female, age, height, description of clothing) or vehicle (color, type, last direction of travel) involved in the incident.
- Once help is on its way, make sure the numbers on the outside of the residence where emergency assistance is needed are clearly visible from the roadway day or night.
- If 911 is called by mistake, do not hang up. Stay on the line and tell the dispatcher everything is all right. If you don't, the dispatcher may assume that an emergency has occurred and send a response team to your location.
- A fire of any kind including structure, vehicle, outside or boat
- Hazardous spill
- A motor vehicle accident
- A rescue of any kind including water, ice or trench
- Any unknown odors, inside or outside
- Alarms of any kind including smoke detector, sprinkler or carbon monoxide
- An allergic reaction of any kind
- A seizure or convulsion
- Burns covering an area larger than the palm of your hand
- Severe injury or being the victim of trauma or an attack
- Bleeding or spurting blood that you can't stop
- Not breathing or having difficulty breathing
- Choking and unable to clear the obstruction
- Unconsciousness, fainting, not alert or making funny noises
- Chest pains, constricting bands, or crushing discomfort around the chest area, even if the pain stops
- Unusual numbness, tightness, pressure or aching pain in the chest, neck, jaw, arm or upper back