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9-1-1 Frequently Asked Questions

9-1-1 Frequently Asked Questions

Some of the most frequently asked questions about 9-1-1 are answered here. For more information, contact MARC's public safety staff at 816/474-4240.

When should I call 9-1-1?

  • To report a crime
  • To report a fire
  • To save a life.
  • Anytime an emergency response is required by law enforcement, fire or emergency personnel

You should call 9-1-1 anytime you believe there is an actual emergency. If you are unsure, call 9-1-1 and the dispatcher will make the final determination.

Situations that are not 9-1-1 emergencies: Please do not call 9-1-1 to report that electricity or other utilities are off; to notify authorities of traffic jams; to inquire about government services or to learn general information. Consult your local phone directory for the appropriate numbers.

If the 9-1-1 system receives multiple calls at the same time, these calls will be answered in the order they are received and handled on a priority basis. Please be patient if your call is put on hold. DO NOT HANG UP.

When using a phone at a business or public building it may be necessary to obtain an outside line before dialing out. For example, you may have to dial an access code such as 9, 8 or 2 before dialing 9-1-1

How will my call be handled by the 9-1-1 dispatcher?

When you call 9-1-1 to report an emergency, the dispatcher will ask you five basic questions . . .

  • Where is this happening?
  • When did this happen?
  • What is happening now? Why?
  • Who is involved? Descriptions?
  • Is anyone injured?

Other information you may need: Include the exact location or address of the emergency. Provide nearby intersections, landmarks, building name, floor, room or apartment number, as well as directions to the address, if possible. As soon as the dispatcher has determined your location and type of emergency, he or she will send help immediately. However, the dispatcher may keep asking you questions to gather information about the situation to pass along to the emergency personnel en route to the scene. Don’t hang up until the dispatcher instructs you to do so.

When dialing a 913 number, I accidentally dialed 9-1-1. What should I do?

9-1-1 centers have been inundated with calls from people attempting to dial a 913 number. If you dialed 9-1-1 by mistake, stay on the line and tell the dispatcher that you have misdialed. If you hang up before talking to a dispatcher, the call will still be delivered to the 9-1-1 center. Valuable time may be lost for other callers while the dispatcher is trying to verify that there is no emergency at your location.

What do I need to know to give a good description?

In many 9-1-1 emergencies, the dispatcher will ask you to describe either the people or the vehicles involved in the emergency.

  • When describing an individual, start at the top of the head and work your way down.
    • What was the race and sex of the individual?
    • How tall was the individual?
    • What was the hair color?
    • What was the individual wearing? (Start from the top of the head and go down.)
    • Did the individual have a mustache, beard, accent, limp, glasses or anything unusual that might make him or her stand out?
  • When describing a vehicle, the dispatcher will ask for the following information:
    • Color
    • Year of vehicle
    • Make of vehicle
    • Body style
    • Additional description
    • License plate number and state of the vehicle

If you don't know any of the above information, a general description of the vehicle will help. Example: A large, dark, older vehicle.

What should I teach my child about calling 9-1-1?

While many children are familiar with dialing 9-1-1 in an emergency situation, they often do not know other important information, such as their address or how to reach a parent at work. Experts recommend that you begin teaching your child this important information at about age three:

  • Teach your children their full names, their parents’ full names, their home address and phone number with area code.
  • Teach your children the name of your employer and the phone number.
  • Teach your children what an emergency is and when to call 9-1-1.
  • Teach your children how to hold the phone properly so that they can speak clearly into the phone.
  • Teach your children that it is against the law to call 9-1-1 as a joke or prank.
  • Teach your children not to be afraid to call 9-1-1.

Teaching your children to call you at work before calling 9-1-1 wastes valuable time. Give them permission to call 9-1-1 if they think there is an emergency.

Attempt to stay calm when you are talking to a 9-1-1 dispatcher. Take a deep breath. Listen to and answer each question. Do not hang up after dialing 9-1-1 until the dispatcher tells you to do so (even if you did not mean to dial 9-1-1).

Does it make a difference if I call 9-1-1 on a wireless phone?

Yes! It is very important that you provide as much information as possible to the dispatcher. This includes:

  • Your wireless phone number
  • Your exact location
  • The name of the road you are traveling on, direction you are headed and any physical landmarks
  • How many miles you are from the nearest town or the nearest cross street.

Technology in use in the Kansas City region allows dispatchers to receive the phone number and approximate location from where the wireless 9-1-1 call originated. But it is still important to know your exact location in the event of an emergency. Make it a habit to note mile markers and other road signs that would help you identify where you are should you need to call 9-1-1.

How does the 9-1-1 center know my location?

9-1-1 calls in the MARC region go through a special router that uses x,y coordinates to pinpoint the caller’s location on a map. This allows the 9-1-1 dispatcher to relay accurate location information to the appropriate agencies.

Depending on the capabilities of your cellular service provider, though, complete location information may not always be available to the 9-1-1 dispatcher. If your phone is equipped with the appropriate software and the carrier’s network supports it, location information will be sent with your 9-1-1 call. If you have questions regarding your cellular phone’s readiness, contact your wireless service provider.

Many people do not have their cellular phone number memorized. Make sure that you have the number written down in an easy to find location before you need to call 9-1-1

How do Internet phone services work with 9-1-1?

Several companies now offer phone services that allow people to use ordinary telephones to make calls through the Internet. This type of service, called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), can cost significantly less than traditional phone services. VoIP often looks and works just like a regular phone. The difference is in how your voice is transported.

Since 2005, Internet phone companies have been required to offer Enhanced 9-1-1 — the technology that provides dispatchers with your phone number and location — to their customers.

Several VoIP providers serving the Kansas City metro area are now connected to the Regional 9-1-1 System, but there may be some service providers that are not yet connected. If you use VoIP, call your service provider and ask if they are connected to the Regional 9-1-1 System. If they are not, your call may be routed to an incorrect dispatch center with no location or call-back information. Even if it is routed correctly, it is possible that the 9-1-1 dispatcher may not receive your call-back telephone number and/or location information.

What should I do in case of a fire?

  • GET OUT SAFELY. Test doors before opening them. If they are warm, use an alternate escape route. Crawl on your hands and knees low under smoke. Keep your head 12 to 24 inches above the floor. If your clothing catches on fire, remember STOP, DROP and ROLL.
  • GET OUT AND STAY OUT. Never go back inside a burning building. Do not try to rescue pets or possessions.
  • GET HELP. Call 9-1-1 from a different location after you have escaped.
  • REMEMBER YOUR ESCAPE PLAN. Go to the designated meeting place and wait for the fire department. Count heads and be prepared to advise firefighters if anyone is trapped inside.

Remember that fire survival begins long before a fire ever starts. Be sure you have a working smoke alarm with fresh batteries installed. You and your family should create and practice an escape plan so you will be ready to react immediately at the first sign of a fire.

What should I do in case of a natural gas leak?

  • GET OUT. Do not turn off lights, or turn on a flashlight or any other electric device until you are away from the leak.
  • GET HELP. Call 9-1-1 or your local fire department from a neighbor’s home or pay phone if you suspect that you have a natural gas leak in or near your home.
  • STAY OUT. Do not re-enter the premises until you are told that it is safe to do so.

What about carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, deadly gas created by home appliances, furnaces, ranges, dryers, heaters and other items that burn fuel. Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, fatigue, nausea, dizzy spells, confusion and irritability. In case of a CO alarm or suspicion of CO poisoning:

  • GET OUT. Do not open windows or doors. Leave them closed so that an accurate reading can be obtained.
  • GET HELP. Call 9-1-1 or your local fire department.
  • STAY OUT. Do not re-enter the premises until you are told that it is safe to do so.

Can I call 9-1-1 if I use a TTY?

Yes. All Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) in the Kansas City Regional 9-1-1 System are equipped with TTY (text telephone) equipment. Communications professionals receive extensive training in handling emergency situations utilizing this equipment.

Can someone call 9-1-1 who does not speak English?

Yes. All Public Safety Answering Points in the Kansas City Regional 9-1-1 System subscribe to a translation service, which provides access to interpreters who speak more than 140 languages. These services are available 24 hours every day. Even when receiving a 9-1-1 call from a non-English speaking individual, help is only minutes away.

Will I receive medical information when I call 9-1-1?

The information that you receive when dialing 9-1-1 varies depending on your location and the type of emergency. In all cases, dial 9-1-1 for medical emergencies that require an ambulance. It is recommended that you know CPR and other life-saving techniques. Contact your local fire department, emergency medical service department, American Red Cross or the American Heart Association for more information.

Should I call 9-1-1 when my utilities stop working?

No. You need to contact your individual utility companies, who provide phone, gas, water and electric services to your home. The 9-1-1 dispatcher CANNOT help you when these utilities stop working.