Frequent Questions about 911 Service

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.

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.