When to call 911

  • Published
  • By Capt. Randy Livengood
  • 509th Medical Group
An estimated 240 million calls are made to 911 in the U.S. each year. Approximately 96 percent of the geographic U.S. is covered by some type of 911.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, one-third are wireless calls. In many communities, it's one-half or more of all 911 calls according to the National Emergency Number Association.

Being on a military installation poses a special set of considerations when dialing 911. If you call from a government phone on Whiteman, your call will be answered by an emergency dispatcher here at the fire dispatch center.

However, if you are on base and call from your cell phone, the call will be answered by the Johnson County Missouri Emergency Dispatch Center. You must inform the dispatcher that you are on Whiteman so they can transfer the call to the Whiteman Fire Dispatch. Johnson County will normally defer response to Whiteman emergency services.

Since 911 is for emergencies only, it helps to understand when to call and when not to call. An emergency is any serious situation where a law enforcement officer, fire fighter or emergency medical help is needed right away. If you are ever in doubt of whether a situation is an emergency you should call 911. It's better to be safe and let the 911 dispatcher determine if you need emergency assistance. However, when you hear "911, what is your emergency?" the correct answer should never be "I don't have an emergency, but..."

As schools let out for the summer and people become more active, misuse of the 911 emergency number increases, tying up the phone lines and preventing attention to real emergencies.

Examples of valid emergencies include a heart attack, serious injury, fire, auto accident or burglary in progress. If you know your situation is not an emergency, avoid calling 911. Twisting your ankle playing intramural sports or vomiting are not emergencies in themselves. A general guideline is if a few extra minutes won't make a difference, 911 is the wrong number to use.

Make sure everyone in your home knows what 911 is, how to dial from your home and cell phone, and to trust the 911 call taker. Make sure your child is physically able to reach at least one phone in your home.

When calling 911 your child needs to know their name, parent's name, telephone number, and most importantly their address. Tell them to answer all the call takers questions and to stay on the phone until instructed to hang up. By knowing how and when to use 911, our emergency services including medical, fire, and police will be able to serve our community more effectively.