When to Call 911 & What to Expect 

When to Call 911  

Dial 911 in the event of an emergency. An emergency is any situation that requires immediate help from the police, fire department, or an ambulance (in Sacramento County all 911 ambulances are part of the fire department). Examples of emergencies include:

  • Fires.
  • A crime, especially if the crime is in progress.
  • A car crash, especially if someone is injured.
  • A medical emergency such as someone who is unconscious, gasping for air or not breathing, experiencing chest pain, an allergic reaction, uncontrollable bleeding, or any other symptoms that require immediate medical attention.
  • Any situation that poses an immediate threat to life, safety, property, or the environment.
  • Use 911 only for emergencies; however, if you are not sure if the situation is truly an emergency, it is better to err on the side of caution and call 911.

If you accidentally call 911, stay on the line and explain to the dispatcher what happened.

What to Expect After Dialing 911

Dialing 911 will ring a public safety access point (PSAP), usually a police department dispatch center. You may then be transferred to closer dispatch center. The first dispatcher will remain on the line with you until the second dispatcher has answered the call. 

The dispatcher will ask you the following questions:

  1. Where is the emergency located?
  2. What is your phone number 
  3. What is the nature of the emergency?

Do your best to stay calm and answer the dispatcher’s questions. 

Computer aided dispatch (CAD) systems allow dispatchers to automatically access a caller’s address and phone number if the caller is using a landline telephone. Automatic location information for cellphones is becoming more common but its accuracy may vary with how old the phone’s technology is and how many cell phone towers are nearby.

Once the location and type of emergency are established, the dispatcher will immediately alert the nearest response units to respond to the emergency. Once units are on the way, the dispatcher may end the call or may continue to ask questions. The dispatcher may also give you potentially life-saving instructions. Do not hang up until the dispatcher instructs you to do so.

More Information

Sacramento Regional Fire/Emergency Communications Center (SRFECC)