Program Emphasizes Importance of Knowing What to Expect and Tips for Calling 9-1-1 to Get the Help Needed
The Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) announces the “Help Us Help You!” educational campaign during National 9-1-1 Education Month to inform the public about how callers can help 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers provide the appropriate resources to Chicagoans and visitors in emergency situations. Throughout the month of April, OEMC will be highlighting tips and other important information at community speaking engagements and CAPS meetings, as well as through social media, radio ads and digital message board displays across the city.
“Our 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers serve as the City’s front line of first responders to those experiencing emergencies and they are dedicated to connecting anyone calling 9-1-1 with the best service they can on what is possibly the worst day of their lives.” said OEMC Executive Director Gary Schenkel. “By educating the public with the ‘Help Us Help You’ campaign and letting people know about why the questions are asked and what information is needed, we can better serve callers to 9-1-1.”
Often when calling 9-1-1, callers are in distress and panic, causing gathering information to seem needless; however, knowing ahead of time – before an urgent situation – why the process is important can help all concerned. For this reason, OEMC is committed to the “Help Us Help You” campaign in educating residents, visitors and anyone calling 9-1-1.
Tips for Calling 9-1-1
Know your location: Always be aware of your surroundings and where you are calling from; tell the call taker the address of the emergency. It’s helpful to give landmarks, such as buildings, parks or cross streets, etc. to identify where you are and where responders need to go. When calling 9-1-1, one of the first things you’ll be asked to provide is the location of the emergency you’re reporting. The call taker may not automatically know your location so you will be asked to confirm it.
Know your cell well: Cell phones may not automatically tell 9-1-1 where you are; know the capabilities of the device you are using (landline, cellular, VoIP) when calling 9-1-1. The current 9-1-1 system is designed for voice communications only. Texting 9-1-1 is not an option in Chicago; you must dial 9-1-1 and speak with a call taker. Before you need help in an emergency, be sure to understand how the type of phone you use affects your call to 9-1-1.
Try to stay calm, listen carefully: Do your best to remain calm, give as much information as you can and follow all instructions. In an emergency, seconds matter, so being knowledgeable and prepared can make all the difference. Knowing when to call and what to expect when you call 9-1-1 can help reduce fear and feelings of helplessness in an emergency.
Know how to give information: Give detailed description of situation/offenders, etc. including sex, race, age, height, weight, clothing, tattoos, scars/marks, hair, face, or complexion. Describe vehicles with license, make, color or direction of escape.
Teach kids about 9-1-1: Educate children about calling 9-1-1 including: listening to instructions, knowing their address and floor/apartment number, any medical conditions of those in the home, and understanding that they should not hang up until the call taker tells them. Also, teach kids about the seriousness of prank calling 9-1-1 and to only call for true emergencies to save a life, stop a crime or report a fire. Don’t give old phones to children as toys. A wireless phone with no active service can still call 9-1-1.
As a reminder to adults and children, if 9-1-1 is accidentally called, stay on the line and tell the call taker that you do not have an emergency.
Make the Right Call
Call 9-1-1 when a situation requires immediate police, fire or emergency medical response:
• For Police Services – Call 9-1-1 when there is a crime in progress, an immediate threat to life or bodily injury or a major property damage or loss due to crime.
• For Fire Services – Call 9-1-1 when reporting a fire, hazardous material incidents or a rescue of a trapped person.
• For Emergency Medical Services – Call 9-1-1 to report life-threatening medical emergencies that require an ambulance including heart attacks, asthma attacks or automobile accidents with injuries.
Call 3-1-1 to request a city service or information or to report non-emergency police services:
• For City Services – Call 3-1-1 to request services such as garbage collection or tree trimming, report problems such as potholes or street lights out or to check the status of a request, as well as to get information on special events, CAPS meetings or other city information.
• For Non-Emergency Police Services – Call 3-1-1 to report a situation that does not pose an immediate threat to life, bodily injury or major property damage or loss, to file a police report, report a situation that does not
require an immediate police response including pick-pocketing, auto theft, etc. or to report other offenses when the suspect is no longer at the scene.
Did you know?
• Call takers and dispatchers have the responsibility to get the caller the help they need AND assist first responders by dispatching the right resources, as well as providing the most accurate and thorough information
available to ensure the safety of the caller and the safety of police, fire and EMS personnel responding to the emergency.
• Any person reporting a crime may inform the call-taker that he/she wishes to remain anonymous.
• OEMC typically handles over 5 million calls a year. If you dial 9-1-1 for a non-emergency matter, you are tying up resources that could be needed in a real emergency.
• Residents cannot text directly to 9-1-1 to request for assistance in Chicago, but you can send a follow-up picture to 9-1-1 from your cell phone AFTER you call 9-1-1 for an emergency.
OEMC is proud of the dedication and contribution of Chicago’s 911 call takers and dispatchers, police, fire and EMS personnel and appreciates their commitment to serve and protect all those who live, work and play in Chicago.