What information 911 dispatchers need from callers

A founder and executive director of an EMS training program shares his thoughts


When a caller dials 911, it's most likely their first time doing so. Considering the circumstances, tensions are high and thoughts become muddled. A user on Quora recently asked, "When calling an emergency number, what information should I give the operator first?" A few answers stood out to us, especially one by founder and executive director of Allied Medical Training named Sean Ewen. You can read his reply below: 

In the United States when calling 911, the emergency dispatcher will usually start the question by saying something like "What's your emergency?"

To expedite help, it’s best to be prepared with the following information and use a clear, calm voice. Take a deep breath while calling to focus and calm yourself.

Take a deep breath while calling to focus and calm yourself. (Photo/Georgia Emergency Management Agency)
Take a deep breath while calling to focus and calm yourself. (Photo/Georgia Emergency Management Agency)

The dispatcher will ask questions to solicit the information needed to send an appropriate response team and keep them informed.

  • Nature of emergency: Such as vehicle collision, fire, medical or trauma emergency, behavioral emergency, situation requiring law enforcement, or special situation (such as hazardous materials spill or other issue requiring containment or special rescue).
  • Location of emergency: Be as specific as possible. Examples: The specific area of the building or property, which side of the road or intersection and any instructions for accessing the site including the direction of approach or gate/security codes
  • A call back number: In case the call is disconnected or responders have trouble finding the site.
  • Number of people affected and their conditions: This is important so appropriate number of resources can be sent. Helpful basic information to provide include whether the victims are breathing, pulse present and any significant bleeding or other life-threatening injuries.

Do you have any other tips to add? Sound off in the comments. And, if you haven't already, this is a good public information piece to share on your department's website and social pages with your community.

About the author

"The Question" section brings together user-generated articles from our Facebook page based on questions we pose to our followers, as well as some of the best content we find on Quora, a question-and-answer website created, edited and organized by its community of users who are often experts in their field. The site aggregates questions and answers for a range of topics, including public safety. The questions and answers featured here on FR1 are posted directly from Quora, and the views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of FR1.

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