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Emergency Communications

Phone: 913-826-1000

11880 S Sunset Drive, Olathe, KS 66061

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911 Caller Tips

Chances are that you and everyone you know will call for emergency assistance at least once or twice in your lifetime. However, no matter what your emergency is, you will probably experience feelings of anxiety, fear, or loss of control due to the potentially critical situation at hand. This information will hopefully lessen some of the anxiety caused by calling for emergency help by explaining what you, the caller, can expect when dialing an emergency assistance number.

When to Call For Help

Research has shown that the general public—those outside the world of providing emergency services—hesitates in making a call to 9-1-1. People may have difficulty recognizing the signs and symptoms of a medical emergency and feel that the call may be unwarranted. Some people may feel they are imposing on public services. Even those within the emergency services profession may fail to place a call because of underestimating the seriousness of a situation or denying that an emergency actually exists. Anyone can lose precious minutes in the delay of making a call due to concerns over the potential long-term impacts on work, childcare, or finances.

But it is up to you, the caller, to make that first step, to take action even if uncertainty exists or when a person you may feel needs help is actively denying that help is needed.

Remember, never be afraid to dial 9-1-1 because of uncertainty. If you THINK you or someone else is experiencing a medical emergency—call 9-1-1 immediately and let the dispatch center and other emergency service professionals help you. That’s why the service exists—to help you in an emergency situation. 

What to Expect When You Call 9-1-1

A professionally trained emergency call taker/dispatcher will answer your call to 9-1-1. Although the call taker is well aware of the potential for crisis and any associated anxiety you may be experiencing, you must have the composure to answer several questions about the situation and the patient’s medical status. Some of the questions help to determine the level of medical support sent to the scene—emergency service personnel and the type and number of emergency vehicles—while other questions are meant to assist you until emergency assistance arrives. 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.

In cases of serious medical problems, such as cardiac arrest, ECC call takers are trained to give real-time instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and life-saving first aid. When it looks like a baby may arrive earlier than anticipated, our call takers can assist you over the phone in safely delivering the infant.

All information is taken while a dispatcher simultaneously routes emergency medical service (EMS) professionals to your location. The same applies to giving emergency instructions. Your job, as the caller, is to answer the questions as accurately as possible and to pay particular attention to the call taker’s instructions. Also, since an emergency situation tends to provoke a great deal of anxiety, it’s up to you to remain as calm as possible. Do not argue. Do not lose your patience. Don’t tell the call taker to hurry. They already know that. Every question the call taker asks is important and designed to assist in the most appropriate and timely response to your emergency. The call taker will stay on the line with you as long as the situation dictates. Do not hang up until the call taker says it is okay to hang up. If the connection is lost, for whatever reason, the call taker will try to call you back.

There are other ways you, the caller, can assist. For example, if possible, you should unlock the front door to allow easy access for emergency responders, and put all pets inside a closed room. You may want to turn on the outdoor lights of the residence or business to increase visibility. If outside and aiding a victim of an accident, try to find someone who can flag down the emergency vehicle from a safe distance as it approaches.

Questions to Expect

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 of the emergency have been verified as correct, the call taker will ask you four universal questions. These questions, listed below, are based on the patient’s medical condition and will help to organize and send the assistance required. The questions are:

  • The person’s problem or the type of incident (“What’s the problem, tell me exactly what happened?”)
  • The person’s approximate age (“How old is s/he?”)
  • Whether the person is conscious (“Is s/he conscious?”)
  • Whether the person is breathing (“Is s/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 a lightning storm or building fire, for example), or to assist in providing emergency care to the ill or injured person until help arrives.

Points to Remember

General 9-1-1 House Rules

  • 9-1-1 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 9-1-1.
  • Never be afraid to dial 9-1-1 because of uncertainty.
  • If you THINK you or someone else is experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately and let the dispatch center and other emergency service professionals help you.
  • 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 9-1-1 is called by mistake, do not hang up; stay on the line and tell the dispatcher that 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.

For Adults

  • Talk to children about when and how to call 9-1-1.
  • Always teach “nine-one-one” as the emergency number.
  • Do not tell children to dial “nine-eleven” since there is no “eleven” on the telephone keypad.
  • Remind children not to make false 9-1-1 calls; it is unlawful and can cause a delay in responding to a real emergency.

A Checklist

  • Remain calm
  • Answer the dispatcher’s questions as accurately as possible
  • Pay particular attention to the dispatcher’s instructions and follow instructions carefully
  • Do not argue
  • Do not lose your patience
  • Do not tell the dispatcher to hurry
  • Do not hang up until the dispatcher says it is okay to hang up

911 Information

History of 9-1-1

The three-digit telephone number "9-1-1" has been designated as the "Universal Emergency Number" for citizens throughout the United States to request emergency assistance. It is intended as a nationwide telephone number and gives the public fast and easy access to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).

In the United States, the first catalyst for a nationwide emergency telephone number was in 1957, when the National Association of Fire Chiefs recommended use of a single number for reporting fires.

In 1967, the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice recommended that a "single number should be established" nationwide for reporting emergency situations. The use of different telephone numbers for each type of emergency was determined to be contrary to the purpose of a single, universal number. Other Federal government agencies and various governmental officials also supported and encouraged the recommendation. As a result of the immense interest in this issue, the President's Commission on Civil Disorders turned to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a solution.

In November 1967, the FCC met with the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) to find a means of establishing a universal emergency number that could be implemented quickly. In 1968, AT&T announced that it would establish the digits 9-1-1 (nine-one-one) as the emergency code throughout the United States.

The code 9-1-1 was chosen because it best fit the needs of all parties involved. First, and most important, it meets public requirements because it is brief, easily remembered, and can be dialed quickly. Second, because it is a unique number, never having been authorized as an office code, area code, or service code, it best meets the long range numbering plans and switching configurations of the telephone industry.

Congress backed AT&T's proposal and passed legislation allowing use of only the numbers 9-1-1 when creating a single emergency calling service, thereby making 9-1-1 a standard emergency number nationwide. A Bell System policy was established to absorb the cost of central office modifications and any additions necessary to accommodate the 9-1-1 code as part of the general rate base. The Enhanced 9-1-1, or E9-1-1, subscriber is responsible for paying network trunking costs according to tariffed rates, and for purchasing answering equipment from the vendor of their choice.

On February 16, 1968, Senator Rankin Fite completed the first 9-1-1 call made in the United States in Haleyville, Alabama. The serving telephone company was then Alabama Telephone Company. This Haleyville 9-1-1 system is still in operation today. On February 22, 1968, Nome, Alaska implemented 9-1-1 service.

In March 1973, the White House's Office of Telecommunications issued a national policy statement which recognized the benefits of 9-1-1, encouraged the nationwide adoption of 9-1-1, and provided for the establishment of a Federal Information Center to assist units of government in planning and implementation. The intense interest in the concept of 9-1-1 can be attributed primarily to the recognition of characteristics of modern society, i.e., increased incidences of crimes, accidents, and medical emergencies, inadequacy of existing emergency reporting methods, and the continued growth and mobility of the population.

In the early 1970s, AT&T began the development of sophisticated features for the 9-1-1 with a pilot program in Alameda County, California. The feature was "selective call routing." This pilot program supported the theory behind the Executive Office of Telecommunication's Policy. By the end of 1976, 9-1-1 was serving about 17 percent of the population of the United States. In 1979, approximately 26 percent of the population of the United States had 9-1-1 service, and nine states had enacted 9-1-1 legislation. At this time, 9-1-1 service was growing at the rate of 70 new systems per year. By 1987, those figures had grown to indicate that 50 percent of the U.S. population had access to 9-1-1 emergency service numbers.

In addition, Canada recognized the advantages of a single emergency number and chose to adopt 9-1-1 rather than use a different means of emergency reporting service, thus unifying the concept and giving 9-1-1 international stature.

At the end of the 20th century, nearly 93 percent of the population of the United States was covered by some type of 9-1-1 service. Ninety-five percent of that coverage was Enhanced 9-1-1. Approximately 96 percent of the geographic U.S. is covered by some type of 9-1-1.

Frequent Questions

What information do I need to provide when I call 9-1-1?

The Telecommunicator will ask you a series of basic questions:

  • Address/Location
  • Phone Number
  • Name
  • Exact Nature of the Emergency

Once these questions have been answered, more detailed questions will be asked to ensure everything about the situation is obtained.

It's the goal of Johnson County Emergency Communications to ensure an accurate and quick response to the emergency you are reporting, and answering these questions will assist in the proper response.

Why does 9-1-1 ask so many questions?

The Telecommunicator may only have one opportunity to gather information about the emergency. Therefore it is important to get as much information as possible if the situation allows. Address verification and a call back number are crucial.

Also, based on your answers to questions, a more appropriate dispatch of emergency personnel may be provided. For example, a victim injured in a traffic accident that is trapped in a vehicle may elicit a different response from emergency responders than someone who has broken their arm.

Is help being sent while I am answering all the questions being asked by the Telecommunicator?

Yes, Johnson County Emergency Communications uses a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD). When basic information is obtained, the location, name, phone number and problem can be entered into the system. Once the pertinent information about the situation has been gathered, another telecommunicator on duty will be dispatching a fire or medical response.

In many cases, you may be asked to stay on the line until help arrives on the scene. This will enable the Telecommunicator to pass along updates to emergency responders, give you critical instructions that could potentially help the situation, and to make sure that everyone remains safe.

How does the 9-1-1 Center know my location when I call from a cell phone?

Johnson County Emergency Communications is a Phase 2 enabled county. This means that when you dial 9-1-1 from a cell phone, the telecommunicator can see your approximate location by receiving the location of the cell tower your call is coming from. The Telecommunicator also attempts to get your exact coordinates through GPS. This process could take 20 seconds or more and the exact coordinates they receive could be about the size of a football stadium. GPS coordinates do not provide elevation, which can be critical when calling from a multi-story building.

When you call 9-1-1 from your cell phone, always assume the telecommunicator does not know where you are at and be prepared to give all address and location information for the emergency, including landmarks.

I have the GPS option on my cell phone. Does that help if I need to call 9-1-1?

Some wireless carriers have a GPS chip in the handset that provides location data, but older cell phones may not have this feature. Check with your wireless provider to find out if your phone is equipped with GPS on how to activate it on your cell phone.

What should I do if I accidentally call 9-1-1?

If you accidentally dial 9-1-1, DO NOT HANG UP!

The best thing you can do is to stay on the line until a telecommunicator answers so you can tell them that you dialed by mistake.

If you do hang up before speaking with a telecommunicator, an attempt will be made to call your number back to make sure everything is okay and that there is no emergency. If no contact is made on the callback attempt, an officer will be dispatched to the location of the 9-1-1 call to ascertain if there is an emergency.

What should I teach my child about calling 9-1-1?

Teaching children the proper use of 9-1-1 is very important. Some of the things you can do as a parent is to cover some these basic pointers:

  • Teach your children their full name, parents' full names, home address and phone number with area code
  • Teach your children what an emergency is and when to call 9-1-1
  • Teach your children that it is against the law to call 9-1-1 as a joke or prank
  • Teach your children to remain calm and answer all questions they're asked
  • Teach your children not to be afraid to call 9-1-1 if they need to

Is the Johnson County ECC 9-1-1 able to assist callers who do not speak English?

Yes, if someone calls 9-1-1 and does not speak English, they will be transferred to Language Line Services where an interpreter will be able to translate all questions and answers. Using this service ensures there is no delay in dispatching emergency personnel to the location of the emergency and assures that the most accurate information is obtained from the caller.

Does the Johnson County ECC 9-1-1have the ability to assist hearing and speech impaired callers?

Yes, hearing and speech impaired callers are able to call 9-1-1 just like any other citizen.

As required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, Johnson County ECC 9-1-1 is equipped with TTY (Text Telephone/Telephone Device for the Deaf) equipment at every call taking position to assist hearing and speech impaired callers. The TTY/TDD technology is built into the phone system to enable seamless communication with callers who have the need to use a TTY/TDD to communicate. All of our telecommunicators are thoroughly trained in the use of a TTY/TDD, as well as continuously trained throughout the year to maintain proficiency in the use of the equipment.

I was trying to make a long distance call from my office and got 9-1-1 by mistake. Why does this happen?

Some offices or businesses may require you to dial 9 to get an outside line to dial out. If you happen to dial 9 to get an outside line and 1 for a long distance number, the 1 could accidentally get pressed twice or be held down too long; therefore 9-1-1 is actually dialed.

Some business phone systems also require that you dial a 9 before you dial 9-1-1 for emergency assistance. You should check with someone responsible for maintaining your telephone system to see if dialing a 9 before 9-1-1 is a requirement for your office. If it is, make sure that these instructions are posted in plain view at each phone for employees to see in case they need to call 9-1-1.

Who pays for 9-1-1?

Each household or business pays a small monthly fee for 9-1-1 service on each telephone line that appears on their phone bill. There is no per-call charge for calling 9-1-1. However, EMS/ambulances dispatched through 9-1-1 may charge for taking someone to the hospital. This is a separate ambulance charge, not a 9-1-1 charge.

What about 9-1-1 prank calls?

It's a prank call when someone calls 9-1-1 for a joke, or calls 9-1-1 and hangs up. Prank calls not only waste time and money, but can also be dangerous. If 9-1-1 lines or call takers are busy with prank calls, someone with a real emergency may not be able to get the help they need. In most places, it's against the law to make prank 9-1-1 calls.

Why does the call taker sometimes transfer my call to another person?

When you call from a phone installed at a residence, business or a pay phone, the phone number of the phone determines which 9-1-1 center you reach. Each 9-1-1 center or Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) has an enormous list of phone numbers that are designated to come to that center. All of these numbers have a special secondary number on file with the phone company that directs your call to the correct 9-1-1 center for your area.

If you call from a cell phone the procedure is slightly different. Cell phones transmit to the nearest cellular tower and from there to the closest 9-1-1 center. The 9-1-1 center is determined by the location of the cell tower. Sometimes if you are close to a county or state border, you might get the wrong 9-1-1 center. However, the employees there will direct your call to the correct center to get the help you need.

In some instances a PSAP may not handle certain call types such as Medical or Fire related calls. In those cases you might speak to more than one dispatcher, as each 9-1-1 center involved gathers the information they need.