Calling 9-1-1 Tips

When Should I Call?

Calling 911: Call 9-1-1 when you need direct access to police, fire and medical assistance.

In an emergency: Call 9-1-1 to report a crime in progress, a fire, a serious illness or injury or any situation requiring an immediate response of the law enforcement, fire or ambulance services.

In a non-emergency: Call 9-1-1 when you have a less threatening situation which requires a non-immediate response from police, fire or ambulance such as noise/parking/traffic complaints.

An alternate 10-digit emergency number is 651.439.9381, these lines are answered by the same 9-1-1 communications center staff.
Your call will be put on hold if other emergencies are occurring. Be patient.

What the 9-1-1 Dispatcher needs to know: Speak slowly and clearly. Try to stay calm.

  • The dispatcher will ask many questions including:
  • The address where help is needed
  • The nature of the problem
  • Your name
  • A phone number where you can be reached
Do NOT call 9-1-1 for: road/travel information, legal advice, civil matter questions, telephone directory assistance, or community event information. A telephone directory or internet sites have this information and numbers.

Important: Call 9-1-1 first in all emergency situations!!!
  • Do not call family members or friends.
  • Do not attempt to transport a seriously ill or injured person.
  • We can get qualified help to the victim much faster and safer than you can get the victim help.
  • Stay on the phone and answer all of the questions. Do not hang up until told to do so. Help is often started as you are speaking.

Unintentional 9-1-1 Calls

Many false calls are generated to 9-1-1 due to cell phones being auto programmed or pre-programmed with a one button emergency feature to dial 9-1-1.

What Can You Do?

Disable Emergency Buttons. Check your user manual or contact your service provider to find out if your wireless phone has a pre-programmed emergency 9-1-1 button. If it does, find out how to disable it or lock it.

Lock Your Keypad. Most wireless phones have a feature that locks or disables the keypad to prevent accidental dialing. Please get in the habit of using it.

Don't Hang Up. It is rare to be able to hang up a phone before it reaches the 9-1-1 network. Therefore, your misdial will reach the 9-1-1 PSAP. If you realize you have accidentally called 9-1-1, please stay on the line until the 9-1-1 dispatcher answers. 9-1-1 Dispatchers are required to call back all numbers that call 9-1-1 and hang up. You will save the dispatcher several valuable minutes by explaining that you accidentally dialed the wrong number rather than the dispatcher having to call you back to see if there's a problem.

Wireless 9-1-1 – Know Where You Are

locMore than 70% of all 911 calls are made from wireless phones. 9-1-1 can be dialed from any wireless phone that has power. The phone does not need to have an active wireless service program to call 9-1-1. Most wireless service providers do not deduct calling minutes from the calling plan for 9-1-1 calls.

Although wireless phones provide a reliable connection to 9-1-1 dispatchers, callers should be aware of important differences in how wireless 9-1-1 calls are processed.
  • Depending upon location, the call will be answered by the local dispatch center such as the Washington County 911 Communications Center, or by the State Patrol. The dispatcher will determine if your situation requires the call to be transferred.
  • The dispatcher may not receive your name and specific location on the 9-1-1 screen when you call. Depending upon the age of your phone and grade of service, the location information may or may not be available. The dispatcher will need to confirm your exact location.
Be prepared to provide:
The exact address of the emergency or
  1. the city you are in
  2. the name of the road you are on
  3. cross streets
  4. major buildings
  5. mile marker signs
  6. exit ramp number
Know and be prepared to provide your wireless phone number, including area code, and your name.


Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and 9-1-1
Many consumers are subscribing to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services for their telephone needs. Unlike traditional wire-line and wireless services, VoIP calls are routed over the internet to connect with the public service telephone networks. These calls present unique challenges to the 9-1-1 system because the user account information is not validated in the same manner as wire-line and wireless phones. Therefore, address information may not conform to 9-1-1 standards and not be reported to the 911 dispatcher. Secondly, because VoIP devices can travel with the customer, a 9-1-1 call can easily be delivered to the wrong 9-1-1 center. For example, a Hugo VoIP user calling 9-1-1 from Orlando with a VoIP device may be routed to the Washington County 9-1-1 Communications Center based upon the account information associated with the device.

Although VoIP providers and regulatory bodies are working to eliminate these problems, users should be aware and be prepared to give their exact location or describe their location while calling 9-1-1. (See Wireless 9-1-1)

Texting 9-1-1

no texting 911.gifNo Text Messaging to 9-1-1

It is not possible to place a call to 9-1-1 using text messaging.

Although technology is being developed and implemented to enable text messaging to 9-1-1 as an alternative method for obtaining a public safety response, the option does not currently exist within Washington County or in Minnesota.