When an emergency strikes, be it a medical emergency, fire, or accident, the most important thing you, as a citizen, can do is to remain as calm as possible and call 911 immediately to provide information necessary to set in motion the response most effective to the type emergency that exists.
All too often, people call 911 too distraught to provide that information; especially the most important; the type of emergency and the location where the emergency exists.
Boundary County can trace locations of landline phones but does not, at this point, have the ability to precisely map cell phone calls. We are currently in the process of getting with all cell phone carriers in the area and getting their data turned on at our center. With Boundary County having very few cell phone towers it is very difficult to get exact locations on any cell phone calls to 911.
Boundary County covers a large geographic area and contains an extensive network of roads, both public and private. It is important that every resident of Boundary County, including children, know how to provide the dispatcher with accurate directions should an emergency strike at home to enable the most rapid response possible.
The Boundary County Sheriff’s Office encourages each family in Boundary County to develop an emergency plan, and ensure that each member of the family knows what to do in the event of a crisis.
An important part of developing this plan is to write down the physical address of your residence and brief but accurate directions from the nearest major road to your door. When writing these directions, please be aware that emergencies often occur at night when landmarks prominent in the day are not visible; the directions you write should enable any and all responders to reach you regardless of the time the emergency arises.
These directions should not only be memorized by each member of the family but copies should be prominently posted by each telephone in the home in the event that a guest or visitor may be called upon to report an emergency.
Why do the dispatchers ask so many questions when I call 911?
Emergency dispatchers need to get accurate information to allow officers to make the best decision on how to approach the situation. Dispatchers handling fire and paramedic calls must also consider the well-being of the public and the safety of the firefighters and paramedics. Callers will be asked:
- (maybe) Why
- Weapons (are weapons of any kind being used or accessible)
The information you provide a dispatcher is relayed to responding officers, paramedics or firefighters while they are on their way to the call.
If I call 911, what will they ask me?
What is the location of the emergency? This is the address where the emergency is actually happening. If you don’t know the actual address, tell the dispatcher and then:
- Give cross streets or a “hundred block.”
- Provide landmarks, business names or parks near the emergency.
- Look at the house numbers in the area.
- If you are calling from inside a home or business, look on a piece of mail.
When asked for a location, we need you to be specific.
Also, if the suspect just left (such as a theft suspect), we need to know which way that suspect went and a description of how he looked.
If you are asked to describe a suspect, start with the most obvious things.
Some examples are:
- “He was a white male.”
- “He/she had a gun.”
- “He/she was at least 6 feet tall.”
- “He/she was wearing a bright red jacket.”
- “He had a long brown beard.”
If you describe a vehicle, include:
- License plate information, including the state.
- Year. (If unknown, tell the dispatcher if it was a new or old vehicle.)
- Make. (Was it a Honda? Nissan? Ford?)
- Body style. (Was it a 4-door? Hatchback? Pick-up truck?)
- Other things you may remember about it.
2. What is the phone number you’re calling from?
This is the number of the phone you’re actually calling from. We need this in case we have to call you back.
3. What is the problem?
Tell us exactly what happened. Be as concise as possible. Tell us what the problem is now, not what led up to the problem.
- “I see a fight on the corner of 6th and Kootenai.”
- “I am fighting with my husband.”
- “There is a car accident westbound on Hwy 2 just before the sign company”
We also need to know if you’re going to be at, or near, the scene when we arrive because the police may need to talk to you, or you may need to point out the exact location. We may ask you what kind of car you are in, or what color clothing you are wearing.