Calling 911

Calling 911 is not a joke or a prank. It is to be used for emergencies only. But use our rule of thumb—when in doubt, call them out!


When you place a call to 911, you may hear a strange noise that sounds like a “click” or a “clunk” when you first dial. Don’t worry! That’s normal. It’s the sound of the call being processed through the system and routed to the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).


If you are calling from a wireline, or a traditional phone, the call should come to the correct PSAP the first time, but if you are using a wireless (cell) phone, your call may not route to the exact PSAP you need, but we can connect you with them in most cases.

When you call 911 in an emergency, here’s what to expect:

· Upon answering, the dispatcher will say: “911, what is your emergency?” We need to know as quickly as possible what is going on now to prompt you to call 911. If it is a medical condition, please give the current problem only first, and we will get the medical history later in the call if the conditions warrant it.

· Where is it happening? We need a street address if possible. If you don’t know or if there isn’t one, that’s okay. If you are on a wireless phone, we will attempt to locate you using the Enhanced 911 portion of E-911. This takes some time, though, and is only as good as the wireless carrier is.

· When did it happen? If it isn’t already obvious by our conversation so far, we will ask you for details.

· Who are you? Who is involved? We would like to know your name and who is involved. In some cases, we know that you won’t be able to tell us who is involved, but that is okay, too. We may ask you for other identifying factors, such as types of vehicles in a wreck.

· Are there weapons involved? A weapon does not have to be a knife or a gun only. It can be anything used to inflict harm, including tree branches, pipes, broken glass, etc.

· At this point, depending on the nature of your emergency, we may have you speak directly with one of our sister public safety agencies if they retain their own dispatch centers or we may ask you to stay on the line while we dispatch this call.

· If we are the agency that dispatches the call, we may ask you further questions once units are dispatched.


It sounds like a lot of questions, but this all takes place in usually around 2 minutes. We strive to have our agencies dispatched in just over 1 minute, but reaching that goal is contingent on the number of calls our center receives at a given time and the clarity of information we can get from our callers.


Oh, and one more thing, if you dial by mistake….don’t hang up! Stay on the line and tell us you accidentally dialed. You won’t be in trouble, and we can log the call properly.

Text Box: About old cell phones—please, please, please stop giving your old cell phones to your children and grandchildren to play games on. Any phone with battery life can be used to dial 911, and we cannot call it back. We can, however, attempt to locate it with E-911. When we do, we will request dispatch of an officer to locate the phone and the person that has repeatedly dialed 911, sometimes 30 or 40 calls, tying up emergency lines with what are considered to be prank calls (which, per Tennessee state law, are misdemeanors).