0222 – Using 911 Efficiently

Whatever the situation is, when you dial 911 stress is likely to be high.  Whatever is happening is probably high stakes and it certainly isn’t a good time to have to deal with logistical challenges.  We know that response time cannot be instant no matter how much we want it to be and what we want to make sure is that we don’t delay help any more than its delayed already.  Yet that might be exactly what we may be heading into when we dial 911.  In the US our emergency response system is efficient and effective, but that efficiency and effectiveness can be compromised when we fail to do our part.  Today we will talk about some simple things you need to do to make sure 911 works for you!

0222 – Using 911 Efficiently


Sponsor of the day:

Dale Fricke Holsters

Reliable 911

When we think about emergencies one of the first concepts that jumps into our heads might be 911.  If we are ever involved in any kind of a serious situation it is likely that at some point emergency responders may also be involved.  The most common way for them to get involved is by someone dialing 911.

We have talked about the concept before, but it bears mentioning that 911 is not a magic pill for all of our problems.  The system is advanced, wonderful, and I’m glad that we have it, but it has some inherent issues that we must understand.

Response Time

We must understand that 911 Is a reactive service.  Police officers, fire fighters and paramedics would love to be in the right place at the right time to prevent something bad from happening or be able to instantly respond when something does happen.  That just isn’t possible based on several issues:

  1. 911 isn’t omniscient
  2. Emergency resources are limited
  3. Emergency services aren’t every where
  4. Emergency response depends on communication from you

Communication with 911

Today we aren’t going to talk about how to speak with the emergency services dispatcher.  Although that is an important topic we are going to move farther upstream and talk about how to get them on the line in the first place.  Seems like an easy enough task.  Pick up the phone and dial 911 right?  Hopefully that is the case, but sometimes it doesn’t go so smoothly.  Lets talk about how we can make the connection.

Know how to connect with 911

Seems silly.  It’s only 3 numbers, but every year there are situations where people are unable to successfully dial 911.  Lets look at some of the reasons:
  • Know the number

Seems kinda silly but you need to know what to dial to get 911.  I was recently working on a school campus where it was required to dial 9-8-911 to access emergency services.
I’ve been on a college campus where the emergency number was 123.
I feel pretty strongly that you should be able to pick up any phone in any location and press three numbers and have an emergency services dispatcher on the other end of the line.  We are moving in that direction, but we aren’t there yet.  It is our responsibility to know how to connect.  If you don’t know, ask.
  • Verify

    Every emergency cervices district is responsible for making sure that a certain percentage of phone numbers in the area are properly connected to the 911 system.  This means a percentage of land line phones must be able to dial 911 and reach the proper emergency services call center.  If you are smart you will make sure that 100% of land lines that you spend time around are verified.  It is your skin after all.  A quick search on the internet brought up several ways in which counties across the U.S. verify 911 service.  In my county I simply fill out a form and drop it at the county Sheriff to verify the information.  Here is how it is done in Sussex County, Schenectady County and Franklin County.  The process is different if you have a VOIP system like OOMA or MagicJack.

    A Word from MagicJack

    911 Emergency Services are for United States and Canadian addresses ONLY.

    Canadian addresses require Canadian numbers

    US addresses require US numbers

    NOTE: 911 Emergency Services will NOT work with magicJack APP

    1. Register your current U.S. address during the registration process.

    2. Make sure that your address information is always complete, up-to-date and accurate. (If you travel, you must update your 911 service address.)

    3. Wait for a confirmation email from magicJack that your 911 service address is registered.


    • Our 911 Emergency Service is different than 911 service offered on traditional phone lines.
    • magicJack may not work during a power or internet outage.
    • Only use 911 in case of an actual emergency.

    Dialing 9-1-1:

    1. REQUIRES prior activation on your part. You must register your current service address and update your registered address if you use your magicJack from another location.

    2. WILL NOT function during a broadband or power disruption/outage.

    3. WILL NOT function if the magicJack is damaged or disabled.

    4. IS subject to the limitations of the 911 emergency response system where your registered address is located.

    You should maintain an alternate means of dialing 911 and make sure other users of your magicJack know this.

  • Practice
We are ultimately responsible for making sure that our call gets to the right place.  If we take the time to find out how to dial 911, verify that our phone system will work as advertised  all that is left is actually dialing the number.  Easier said than done.  There aren’t a whole lot of people out there that dial 911 on a regular basis let alone while they are under stress.  If you think about it we are much more likely to dial other -11 numbers than 911.  411 for information, 611 for customer service, 811 is the new national call before you dig hotline.  We can be thankful that these are more likely to be used, but at the same time, that can be a problem for us when we actually need to dial 911.
At home and work unplug the phone form the wall, check for a dial tone, and then practice.  Just the dialing at first, then write a script and practice it too.
On your cell, take out the battery and press 911 send.   Mechanics and the script.
A little practice could make a big difference in helping you call 911 instead of information.
The steps are pretty easy:
  1. Get the number
  2. Verify
  3. Practice
Taking the time to go through the three steps will help to reduce the response time which is already going to be too long!



2 replies
  1. Paul Rose
    Paul Rose says:

    Shortly after listening to your 911 episode, I travelled to “The Big City” to pick up my wife from the airport. I needed a restroom, so I pulled off the interstate and went to a big box store. As I sat there, scenarios were playing out in my head of responding to an attack in my present location.
    It was then that I realized I did not know my location. I got off the highway when I saw a sign promising a restroom, but did not know the street name. If I needed to call for help, I couldn’t tell the 911 operator where I was. Literally, I was a sitting duck who was sitting in a Target.
    The remedy is “Pay Attention!”. Every town puts up street signs. Read them. Lacking that awareness, go to your smart phone and have Google Maps report your current location. When you realize that you let your guard down, quickly determine your location. It is the most important thing to know when calling for help.
    Thanks for all you do, Paul. I am glad you have been able to put out some more podcasts.

    • PaulCarlson
      PaulCarlson says:

      Paul, you are so right. The best way for us to improve is to take immediate corrective action when we discover that we have made an error of some kind. Of course we must be reflecting on our actions in the first place to catch those goofs. Good work and keep it up! The good news is that we are often perfectly safe despite our goofs because no one is trying to target us. The more we reduce our goofs, the more we reduce the time we spend being a target. The less often we are a target, the less likely we are to be a target at the same time someone in our vicinity is looking for a target. I hope that made sense.

      You bring up a good point about our smart phones. They can be an excellent help to us. If we are often using google maps a s a resource to tell us where we are, pretty soon, we are just always going to know where we are! Add that to little tips like paying attention to signage and you will be all set. Don’t forget about mile markers on the highway, that can be very helpful!

      Thanks for your compliments Paul and have a great day!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *