Calling 911 – What you should say and do:

  1. Stay Calm:
    • One of the best things you can do in an emergency is to stay calm. The calmer you stay, the more help you can be to the person requiring help as well as to the 911 operator. The operator needs to determine the type of help you require and the particular resources that need to be contacted.
    • Sometimes just stopping and taking a deep breath will help. 
    • Speak slowly and clearly so that the operator can understand you.
    • When choosing a phone to call from, first make sure you are a safe distance from the situation.  If the building is on fire or has structure damage, get out first!  It is important that someone already at the emergency site places the 911 call and that the caller knows the phone number in case they are disconnected from 911.
    • If it is safe to do so, use a landline at the emergency site as dispatch will be able to identify your location immediately.
    • If you are using a cell phone, you need to be stationary at the emergency site (at a safe proximity) for a location to be determined.  If you are moving (ie. in a vehicle), it is difficult for 911 to pinpoint the emergency site in order to send assistance.
  2. Know where you are:
    • This might not always be as easy as it sounds. If you are at a specific location, this might be as simple as a street number.
    • But what do you say if you don’t know exactly where you are?
      For rural locations, it can be more confusing.  Ideally you know the legal land location (ie. SE35-50-4W4), the rural address (green signs at property access points ie. 505040 HWY 897), or at least the closest Range Road and Township Road.  It is important to have this posted in an easy to find spot so if you are the casualty and someone else is calling on your behalf, they will know the address.

      If you are travelling in your vehicle and still unsure of your exact location, even stating the direction you are going and how long it’s been since you passed a particular location may help the operator determine where the emergency is (for example: “I’m going west on Highway 16 and passed Kitscoty about 10 minutes ago”).
  3. Listen:
    • Be sure to listen to what the operator has to say. They will ask you specific questions to determine what kind of help you need.
    • They may give you instructions on what to do, such as administering help.
    • They may tell you to move to a safer location or go to a specific location to meet emergency personnel.
    • DO NOT hang up until instructed to do so. The operator may put you on hold while contacting emergency personnel and may need to ask you for additional information.
  4. Be patient:
    • It may take some time before emergency services can reach you – especially in rural areas. In rural settings, many services provided are either run by volunteers that need time to get rolling or the service is dispatched from the nearest urban center (such as ambulance) that may be many minutes away. 

Safety Tips

Don’t let children “play” with your cell phone. Many times calls will accidentally go through to 911 because kids are playing with the phone. This ties up valuable time that could be devoted to a real emergency.  If you insist on letting children handle your cell phone, lock the keys or take the battery out to prevent miss-dialing an emergency number.

If you call 911 by mistake, it is better to let the operator know that it was a mistake rather than just hanging up. Sometimes, the call can be traced and the operator may dispatch emergency services if the call is a hang-up because they don’t know that it’s not an emergency.
Keep a list of emergency numbers near every phone – home and office. 

Have your correct address written down and placed on or near each phone in your home. Sometimes you are the one that needs the help and an outsider to your home may need to call for help to your home and will need the correct address to give to the operator.
If you are caring for someone that has a health condition, know their medications and any other applicable information to be able to give accurate information to emergency personnel or hospital staff. 

Teach children the correct way to call 911 and how to speak to the operator.