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Calling 9-1-1: The Basics

Calling 9-1-1: The Basics


There are several things to keep in mind when calling 9-1-1 for police, fire, or emergency medical assistance. The following frequently asked questions address important considerations related to emergency communications.

This information is also available in PDF format.


  1. 9-1-1 should only be called if you need an emergency response from police, fire or emergency medical personnel. For non-emergencies, call your local police or fire department or appropriate agency for assistance. Examples of when to call 9-1-1 include:
    1. A serious medical emergency (chest pains, seizures, bleeding, etc.)
    2. Any type of fire (structure, vehicle, brush, etc.)
    3. Any crime in-progress (robbery, burglary, prowler, fights, etc.)
    4. Any other life threatening situations (traffic accident with injuries, etc.)
  1. If you do not speak English or have trouble conveying the needed information in English, interpretation services are available at all 9-1-1 centers in King County.

  2. Let the call taker know immediately which language you speak in English so they can find the correct interpretation services.
  1. If you are deaf or hearing impaired, 9-1-1 centers are equipped with TTY devices and call takers are trained in their use. You can also use Video or IP Relay Services that will deliver your call to the 9-1-1 center in your registered location and interpret the call.
  1. For all 9-1-1 calls you will be asked for the location of the emergency, the phone number you are calling from and the nature of your emergency.

  2. Once the nature of the emergency is established, the call taker will ask you questions pertaining to your emergency and may give you pre-arrival instructions in the case of a medical emergency.

  3. It is important to speak clearly and to answer all of the questions the call taker asks you as calmly and completely as possible. 9-1-1 call takers are trained to ask specific questions that relate to the type of emergency you are experiencing.

  4. While you may be asked many questions, this information is not delaying a response by emergency personnel.

  5. In fact, emergency personnel are typically dispatched as soon as the location and nature of the emergency is known.

  6. The 9-1-1 center will continue to relay the necessary information to the emergency personnel while they ask you questions, and in some cases they may keep you on the phone until help arrives.
  1. Know the location of the emergency situation, especially if you’re calling from a cell phone.

  2. Provide the call taker with your address immediately.

  3. Otherwise, look for street signs, landmarks or mile markers.
  1. Call takers will need your name and number in case your call is dropped.

  2. Emergency responders will also use it if they need to contact you.

  3. The call taker will not ask you about your immigration status.
  1. Do not hang up. Stay on the line.

  2. You may be asked a series of questions even after emergency responders have been dispatched.
  1. Landline phones are the most reliable for calling 9-1-1, so whenever possible use a landline phone when you need to call 9-1-1.

  2. Pay phones can be used to call 9-1-1 without inserting coins. In case of power outages, be aware that VoIP/Internet/Broadband phone service will not work.

  3. If you have landline phone service, you should keep a basic, corded phone that does not require electricity available to use during power outages.

  4. In addition, emergency phones are installed on the outside of many police and fire stations.
  1. Power outage: You should call your utility company if you have questions or need to report a power outage.

  2. Traffic information: 5-1-1 is the number for traffic information in Washington state.

  3. Social services: 2-1-1 is available in Washington state to help with health and human service needs.

  4. In the case of an area-wide emergency, do not use your telephone for the first few hours following the event unless you have a life-threatening emergency and need to call 9-1-1.
  1. Should you ever call 9-1-1 by mistake, stay on the phone and tell the call taker that you misdialed, and that you do not have an emergency. If you hang up the call taker will try to call you back, and may dispatch an officer if they cannot determine that no emergency exists.

Be 9-1-1 Aware

Please use 9-1-1 responsibly. Call only if you need an emergency response from police, fire, or medics.
For non-emergencies, call your local police or fire department or other appropriate agency.

206-477-4910
CALL 9-1-1 IN AN EMERGENCY

TTY Relay 711