1. If I call 911 and then change my mind, should I just hang up?
You should never hang-up after dialing 911, even if you decide your call is not an emergency or you misdialed, you should stay on the phone and tell the dispatcher that. If you don't hang up, usually you can prevent an officer having to respond by simply staying on the phone and explaining what happened and answering the dispatcher's questions.
2. How does the center decide which calls are more important than others?
It is the duty and intent of the AECC to provide accurate and timely dispatch of calls for service for the citizens of Amarillo. High priority calls are when there is immediate threat to person or property, and low priority calls are when there is no immediate threat to person or property. All calls for service regardless of priority shall be dispatched when the primary responder(s) is/are available.
3. Why do the people who answer the phone ask so many questions instead of just sending help?
The dispatchers are trained to ask various questions pertaining to whatever is being reported to help determine what type of units will respond and how they will respond. Asking questions does not slow down the response. Usually emergency calls are being dispatched while the call taker is still on the phone with the caller.
4. Why do non-emergency calls hold for so long sometimes?
The dispatch center handles numerous calls and at times receives several calls reporting the same incident such as an accident or fire. The dispatcher needs to answer each call as quickly as possible concentrating on emergency calls first and then the non-emergency calls. A common misconception is that we only answer 911 calls and the truth of the matter is the majority of calls are of a non-emergency nature. The dispatchers also have to field calls and page out other departments such as Coroner, Highway Department, Social Services, and wreckers.
5. Why at times does it take so long to get anyone to answer the phone?
There are many calls being answered at one time and a seroius incident that you are not aware of may be taking place, and we may need to place you on hold.
6. Should I call the dispatch center if I need information about weather, road conditions or school closings?
Although we usually have SOME of this information, we are most likely tied up with other emergency calls, and simply do not have the manpower to answer these questions completely. You will almost always get the best response by tuning into local media for school closings and weather conditions.
7. I call about an ongoing problem all of the time and nothing ever gets done. Does the center just disregard some calls?
The dispatch center does not disregard any calls for service. All legitimate calls are turned over to the agency responsible for service and once this happens, the outcome is out of our control. If you have a concern about how a specific incident was/wasn't handled, you should contact the department that handled the call and speak to a supervisor.
8. WHEN DO YOU CALL 9-1-1?
Examples of when to call 9-1-1 are:
- When you see smoke or fire.
- When someone’s life and/or property in immediate danger.
- When you see a crime being committed.
- When rescue or emergency medical assistance needed.
- When you are not sure, call & let trained personnel decide.
9.WHAT WILL THE DISPATCHER ASK YOU WHEN YOU CALL 9-1-1?
All callers are asked a standard set of questions which will help the dispatcher prioritize your call, and will provide the responding personnel with information before their arrival. The following are just some of the questions we may ask you.
LOCATION OF THE PROBLEM:
Where are you and where did the incident happen?
This is important if the phone line disconnects for some reason. Even though the 9-1-1 information the dispatcher receives should have the phone number and address of where you are calling from, the dispatcher will ask you for the address where the problem is, as well as where you are calling from, to verify the information on the 9-1-1 screen. This is especially critical if you are calling from an address other than the one where the problem is. It is also important to give any building names, building numbers, apartment or condominium names and unit or suite numbers.
Be as specific as possible. Avoid using "left" and "right" as directions. This is often confusing. Instead, use a direction such as "North" or "South". The best locations are specific street addresses or cross streets.
NATURE OF THE PROBLEM:
- Please use real language – don’t try to use lingo or slang, it will only confuse the situation.
- tell us briefly what is happening or what happened.
- Is anyone injured?
- Basic description of what occurred.
When did this occur? 5 minutes ago, 5 days ago, last year, has it been going on over a span of time (hours, days, or weeks).
- How many people are involved?
- Race, sex, height, weight, clothing, hair color, facial hair, eyeglasses, hat, etc.
- Descriptions are asked from the top to bottom, outside to inside…
- What is “Top to Bottom”? Hat, hair, facial hair, shirt, coat, pants, shoes - top of the person to the bottom
- What is “Outside to Inside”? Coat is on the outside, shirt on the inside, t-shirt inside that –outer clothing first then less visible clothing.
- DID THE PERSON HAVE A WEAPON? If so, what kind?
- Was the person carrying anything?
- Where did the person go?
- Color, year, make, model, body, accessories, license #.
- Direction of travel
- When calling 9-1-1, all you have to do is answer the dispatcher’s questions! Stay on the phone and answer the questions as calmly as you can. Sometimes it may sound as if the dispatchers are repeating themselves with the same questions, but you may give more detail the second time the question is asked. There may have been something you've forgotten earlier. Please don’t be frustrated - they are trying to assist you and obtain important information. We know how stressful an emergency situation can be, try to remain calm when giving information. Do not hang up until the 9-1-1 Dispatcher, or the on-scene Police or Fire personnel direct you to do so.
10. WHEN GIVING INFORMATION, DON'T EDIT OR EXAGGERATE!
Give all the information that you have. For Example: If you don't mention that the suspect was wearing a red hat because you don't think it was important, you may be withholding the single most important identifier in apprehending the suspect. An emergency response WILL NOT be delayed by answering the above questions. In most instances, assistance will be dispatched while you are still on the phone. By answering the dispatcher's questions, the dispatcher can relay important information to the units responding prior to their arrival. This increases the chances of a successful outcome to the call!
11. WHAT ABOUT DIALING 9-1-1 IN A MAJOR DISASTER?
There will be a delay in receiving a dial tone. Don't flick the phone hook switch button (click button up and down), since each time it is depressed, your call reverts to the "end of the line" to receive the dial tone, resulting in further delay!
Wait at least one to one and a half minutes for a dial tone. It could take that long or even 5-6 minutes in a major disaster, because of the number of calls being made.
Please tune in the emergency broadcast station of your radio for information and updates rather than to call the police or fire departments. DO NOT CALL radio stations for updates; the less the phone lines are used, the more service there will be for emergency help.
In some instances, the dial tone will be eliminated from residential phones and phones that are not on "essential service". In these instances, ALL PAY PHONES will be operable, with a dial tone.
There is no way to tell, in advance, if the 9-1-1 screens in the dispatch center will be functioning correctly in a major emergency, so be prepared to give the dispatcher all information. During a disaster, electricity usually fails. Do NOT call 9-1-1 to find out when the power will go back on.
12. ARE PAY PHONES ANY DIFFERENT?
You may dial 9-1-1 for an emergency at any pay phone, without needing any coins. The phone number and location of the pay phone should show up on the 9-1-1 screen. But be prepared to state your location for verification.
13. WHAT IF I DON'T SPEAK ENGLISH?
9-1-1 allows emergency calls to be transferred to an interpreter who can interpret other languages. Interpretation is accessible from every telephone; home and business phones, coin-operated and phones equipped with T.T.Y.'s (Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf and hard of hearing). Each 9-1-1 station in the Communications Center is equipped with a TTY machine. To access TTY or TDD, press the space bar until a response is received
14. SHOULD I PROGRAM MY TELEPHONE TO DIAL 9-1-1?
While it is not against the law, we strongly advise against doing this. Automatic dialing of 9-1-1 can result in accidental calls to the 9-1-1 dispatcher. Speed dialing can malfunction, and stop working, which would delay precious response time. In addition, if you are training your children to press a one-button speed call number in an emergency, they may not know how to call for help from another phone.
15. IF YOU WERE INJURED, WOULD YOUR CHILD KNOW HOW TO GET HELP?
Make sure your child knows the following information:
- Name (yours and the child’s)
- Address (including name of apartment complex and apartment number if applicable)
- Phone number
- Directions to your home from nearest main road, intersection or major landmark
- OTHER THINGS TO THINK ABOUT….
- Make sure your address and phone number is posted by the phone(s), so they can be read by anyone using the telephone in an emergency. In times emergency, even those who have lived in their houses for 20 years have been known to forget their information.
- Do you have a cordless phone? Low batteries may activate a call to 9-1-1; check batteries regularly
- Make sure your house number is visible at night from the street and is clearly posted where your driveway joins the main road.
- 9-1-1 is the number to dial for the fastest possible emergency response when you need emergency POLICE, FIRE or MEDICAL ASSISTANCE in a life or death situation
16. I don’t have an emergency that I have to call 911. How do I contact the police department, sheriff’s office, etc?
To report non-emergency incidents within the City of Amarillo, or to speak with an Amarillo Police Officer, you can call 806-378-3038. To report incidents outside the city limits of Amarillo, or to speak with a Randall County Sheriff’s Deputy, you can call 806-468-5751. To report incidents outside the city limits of Amarillo, or to speak with a Potter County Sheriff’s Deputy, you can call 806-379-2900.
17. If I call 911 on my cell phone, who am I going to reach?
If you call 911 from anywhere in Amarillo, you should reach the Amarillo 911 Center. But, remember to always identify where you’re calling from! It is possible for cell phone calls to be miss routed to neighboring dispatch centers.
18. Can I text information to 911?
Inside Amarillo city limits, you can text to 911. However, voice calls are always preferred. Sometimes it takes several questions before we can get field units en route to assist you. It simply takes longer to process that series of questions via text messaging. Text to 911 should only be used when making a voice call would put the caller at risk. An example of this would be when a caller is hiding from an intruder and they do not want to be heard.
19. Why can’t I just call 911 even if its not an emergency?
There are limited telephone lines dedicated to 911 services, and if filled with non-emergency calls, could mean we miss vital information in an emergency or the response to an emergency situation could be delayed. In 2015, the Amarillo 911 Center initiated almost 600,000 calls for law enforcement, fire and medical services.
20. I have an old phone. Can I use this to teach my child about dialing 911?
Even if there is no cell phone service to the phone, as long as it is charged, it can still call 911. Please do not let children play with your old phones, or at least take the battery out before you do.