Cell Phones and 911 Calls

Like it or not, the world has gone cyber. This has its good points and bad points, but on the good side is that if you have an emergency when you are not at home, chances are your cell phone is close at hand. When calling 911 from your land line, the address is automatically available even though the operator will verify it. The same is NOT true with a cell phone even if you have GPS. The GPS information received by the 911 Center from a cell phone can be as large as three football fields or more so it’s critical that you be as specific as possible in your directions. If you aren’t sure where you are look for landmarks, street signs or large buildings around you — anything that will help emergency personnel find you.
Your call may need to be transferred to another agency because cell phone areas do not necessarily follow map boundaries so even though 911 will get you started, your call may have to be transferred to, say, Lawrence or Speedway. If your emergency requires fire or ambulance services, you will be transferred to the appropriate dispatchers, so do NOT hang up during this transfer.
Seconds save lives. The more information the dispatcher has, the better information they can pass along to emergency personnel. In medical situations those dispatchers are specially trained to give emergency pre-arrival instructions, starting immediately. In any 911 situation, the dispatcher will need answers to the 6 W’s: Where is the emergency, What is the emergency, When did it happen; Who is involved; what is the Welfare of the person, and are Weapons involved? Cell phone coverage is not always reliable so if you are cut off, call back immediately rather than wait for the dispatcher to try to reach you. If you get a recording it’s probably because several people are calling about the same incident at the same time (such as a traffic accident) but STAY ON THE LINE because your call will be answered within seconds. Hanging up and calling again just puts you back at the end of line.
Not only is driving while calling dangerous but it increases the possibility of poor reception and makes it more difficult for emergency personnel to find you. If you cannot safely pull over then stay calm, pay attention to the roadway and follow the dispatcher’s instructions.
Before traveling out of town, be sure to check first with your service provider to see how to reach the correct 911 answering point. With some providers your 911 call will go to the answer point nearest you but with others, you may end up talking to the one where you bought your phone. As an added precaution, it’s never a bad idea to look up the local emergency phone number and program it into your cell phone for any destination where you will be staying.
Be safe, but just in case of an emergency, be prepared.