Things You Should Know When Calling 911

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Geek!This is Polaris Fire’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

  • Where are you? It’s amazing that people call 911 and can’t give even an approximate description of their location. If you need help, it is imperative that the help be able to find you. Even today, with cell phones and GPS, many rural areas don’t have these features available to them for locating people. Give landmarks that the dispatcher can use to tell the fire engine drivers where to go as most likely these will be local people that know their way around your area. Use nearby streets as a guide also.
  • Know your phone number. The dispatcher, be they fire, sheriff, highway patrol or local police, needs to know where to call if they need further information. They may need to call back to find out a better address, cross street or tell the caller some piece of information, like the arrival time of the engine or ambulance, or if there is anything the caller should be doing. Please speak clearly and slowly that the number can be conveyed accurately. If they need it repeated, do so until you and they are sure it is correct as there may be issues with cell phone service or a bad connection.
  • Know that the first people that respond may not be arriving with an engine. Many municipalities hire volunteers or paid call fire fighters in the community to augment the fire station’s staff. They usually arrive in private vehicles with turnout gear (boots, pants, coat, helmet, gloves and such) but do not have immediate access to other equipment until the engines arrive. Some do have access to brush or squad type vehicles (these are usually pick-up trucks with utility beds for various purposes) but usually do not have access to full fire engines unless they have taken months of training first.
  • Be in a location that they can find you but not be in the way. If your home is off the beaten path, go to the main street and wait for emergency personnel to show up so you can guide them to where they need to be. And then move out of the way so they can do their job. If it’s dark, use a flashlight to wave at the ground (not in their faces!) so they can identify you and find where they need to be going. Stay near your car, or other landmark where you can be found easily. If you are near your car, use its hazard flashers to get people’s attention.
  • Stay calm. Yelling at the dispatcher isn’t going to make the fire fighters appear quicker. As a matter of fact, the delay in providing accurate and factual information in a calm manner can mean the difference in life and death. The 15 seconds spent speaking in an understandable voice can help the emergency personnel avoid delays in having insufficient, inaccurate or plain wrong information in getting the help you need to you in a timely and safe manner. Those 15 seconds can save 2 minutes or more in trying to get the information to the people that need it.