9-1-1 Do's and Don'ts

When the 9-1-1 number was created in 1968, it was intended as an easily remembered, toll-free method of reaching law enforcement, fire and EMS agencies. Although the term "9-1-1" has come to be synonymous with the entire public safety communications system, it's actually a dedicated telephone system for relaying calls.

In general, 9-1-1 is an emergency number for any police, fire, or medical incident. In Laramie County, non-emergency assistance from law enforcement, fire, and medical services can all be reached at 637-6525.

  • Dial 9-1-1 only for an emergency. An emergency is any serious medical problem (chest pain, seizure, bleeding), any type of fire (business, car, building), or any life-threatening situation (accidents, fights, a person with a weapon, etc.).
  • Do not dial 9-1-1 for a non-emergency. Instead, dial 637-6525. Examples of non-emergency incidents are any break-ins when a suspect is gone, theft of property when a suspect is gone, vandalisms when a suspect is gone, panhandlers, and intoxicated persons who are not disorderly.
  • Do not program 9-1-1 into the speed dial of your telephone. You won't forget the number, and programming the number invites accidental dialing.
  • Do not dial or text 9-1-1 to "test" your phone or the system. This needlessly burdens the Telecommunicators and the system with non-emergency calls.
  • If you dialed 9-1-1 in error, do not hang up the phone! Instead, stay on the line and explain that you dialed by mistake and that you do not have an emergency. If you hang up, a Telecommunicator will call back to confirm that there is no emergency. If you don't answer, officers or deputies will be dispatched to confirm that you are okay. This needlessly takes resources away from genuine emergencies.
  • Give the location of the incident and briefly describe the type of incident you are reporting. For example, "I'm reporting a car fire," or "I'm reporting an unconscious person," or "I'm reporting a shoplifter." Then stay on the line with the Telecommunicator -- do not hang up until the Telecommunicator tells you to. In many cases, the Telecommunicator will keep you on the line while the emergency units are responding to ask additional questions or to obtain on-going information.
  • Let the Telecommunicator ask you questions -- they have been trained to ask questions following specific protocols that will help locate the incident, prioritize it, and send an appropriate response. Your answers should be brief and responsive. Remain calm and speak clearly. If you are not in a position to give full answers to the Telecommunicator (the suspect is nearby), stay on the phone and the Telecommunicator will ask you questions that can be answered "yes" or "no."
  • Be prepared to describe your location and the location of the emergency. Although an Enhanced 9-1-1 system will display certain information, the Telecommunicator must confirm the location of the emergency and the phone number from which you are calling, or may ask you for more specific location information about the victim or suspects.
  • If you are a cellular caller, your exact location will not be displayed for the Telecommunicator's reference. You must be able to describe your location so emergency units can respond. Be aware of your current city or town, address, highway and direction, nearby cross-streets or interchanges, or other geographic points of reference.
  • Be prepared to describe the persons involved in an incident. This includes their race, sex, age, height and weight, color of hair, description of clothing, and presence of a hat, glasses or facial hair.
  • Be prepared to describe any vehicles involved in the incident. This includes the color, year, make, model and type of vehicle (sedan, pick-up, sport utility, van, tanker truck, flatbed, etc.). If the vehicle is moving or has left, the Telecommunicator will need to know the last direction of travel.
  • Be patient as the Telecommunicator asks you questions. While you are answering the Telecommunicator's questions, he/she is entering the information. They are trained to get the most important information as quickly as possible. Please allow them to ask the questions they need in order to get help there in the timeliest manner. If you are reporting an emergency, a response is being sent by another Telecommunicator while you are still on the line with the Telecommunicator taking your call.
  • Listen to the Telecommunicator's instructions for assistance if you are in danger yourself. The Telecommunicator may tell you to leave the building, secure yourself in a room or take other action to protect yourself.
  • Don't hang up until the Telecommunicator tells you to. Follow any instructions you are given, such as meeting the officers at the door, flagging down the firefighters at the curb, or performing first aid/life-saving measures to be provided to sick or injured people.