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Contacting 9-1-1

Patricia Harris, dispatcher, Homeland Security Solutions Inc., responds to a traffic stop on the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) on Camp Pendleton Calif., June 21, 2017. The new universal CAD is used for all of Camp Pendleton's emergency services and was implemented on June 19, 2017 on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, CA. (US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brandon Martinez)

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brandon Martinez VIRN 170619-M-FK947-014

Across the U.S., 9-1-1 is synonymous with emergency services. Every person in the United States can reach a public safety telecommunicator by dialing those three digits.
Before an Emergency

Before an emergency occurs, it is important to: 

  • Discuss with your children about when and how to contact 9-1-1 and what to say to public safety telecommunicators. 
  • Practice preparedness. Having plans for an emergency and a home evacuation ensure you know what to do when an emergency happens. 
  • Know your local community’s 9-1-1 capabilities. Based on those capabilities, make a plan for how you will reach emergency services.
During an Emergency
  • Get to safety if you are in immediate danger. 
  • Contact 9-1-1. To provide the proper emergency services, the public safety telecommunicator will ask a sequence of questions: 
    1. What is the location of your emergency?  
    2. What is the nature of your emergency?
    3. What phone number are you calling from? 
    4. What other details can you provide?  
  • Answer all questions as calmly as possible.
  • Follow any instructions provided by the public safety telecommunicator. This could be instructions to perform CPR or how to apply first aid. Remember, you are the help until emergency responders arrive.
When to Call 9-1-1

9-1-1 is for emergencies only. In this instance, an emergency is defined as any serious situation where a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or medical assistance is needed right away, according to NENA: The 9-1-1 Association. If you aren't sure, go ahead and contact 9-1-1.  

Accidental Calls

Accidents happen. If you or your child contact 9-1-1 by mistake, stay on the line. Inform the public safety telecommunicator that you contacted 9-1-1 by accident and there is no emergency. This saves the public safety telecommunicator's time because they do not have to call you back to confirm there is no emergency. Plus, a hang up could be interpreted as a need for help. This could prompt a public safety telecommunicator to send police to check your address for an emergency. 

Ready Marine Corps Kids and 9-1-1

It is important to empower our youngest community members with the knowledge necessary to contact emergency services. Knowing when to contact 9-1-1 and what to say will help your children calmly and quickly get help when they need it most. Download the activity sheets below and sit down with your children to discuss proper 911 use. 

History of 9-1-1

In 1968, following the recommendation from the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice that a single number should be established nationwide for reporting emergency situations, AT&T established the digits 9-1-1 as the emergency code throughout the United States; Congress designated 9-1-1 as the national emergency number under the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999. The first 9-1-1 call was placed on February 16, 1968 by Senator Rankin Fite in Haleyville, Alabama. Since that first emergency call more than 50 years ago, 9-1-1 usage has become commonplace.

Recognizing the importance of proper 9-1-1 usage, in 2008 Congress recognized April as National 9-1-1 Education Month. This campaign emphasizes public education on the optimal use of 9-1-1 services. Additionally, the second week of April is National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week (NPSTW). Throughout the week, show appreciation for the Public Safety Telecommunicators who calmly get help to those who need it most.  


Set your own course through any hazard: stay informed, make a plan, build a kit.
Live Ready Marine Corps.