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911 - When To Call, What To Say

by The Social Diary Safety Educator Columnist Monica Zech
Column #12, April 24th, 2006

Calling 9-1-1 In An Emergency

An emergency can be defined as a situation that poses an imminent danger to life or property. You can make a determination of a situation by asking yourself this question: Are the police, fire department or paramedic assistance needed right now to protect life or property? For instance, any fire or smell of smoke, a heart attack, an in-progress assault, a shooting or an injury traffic collision are examples of calls for which 9-1-1 should be used.

For non-emergency service, call your Police Department. For example in El Cajon you should dial (619) 579-3311. Non-emergency calls would include those such as reporting a loud party, a bicycle stolen some time ago, an assault that may have happened yesterday or a burglary that may have happened some time earlier.

As a good rule of thumb, if you can't decide whether the call is an emergency or not, it is better to err on the side of safety. In other words, when in doubt, dial 9-1-1.

When you should call 9-1-1?
In An Emergency - (also teach your children)
When you need help
When you need the police, fire department or an ambulance.
To try and stay calm, speak up and clearly
Explain what's wrong - what type of an emergency it is.
Explain what type of help you need - fire, police, ambulance.
Explain where they are and where help is needed.
Give your name and address loudly and clearly.
Answer all questions that are asked of you.
Do not hang up until the dispatcher says it's ok to do so.
Teach your children their address - the dispatcher may ask them to confirm the address on their screen.
Let your child know that 9-1-1 dispatchers are there to help in an emergency.
If they accidentally call 9-1-1, tell them not to be afraid and to stay on the line to tell the dispatcher you dialed incorrectly - when a dispatcher gets a hang-up they'll call you back to make sure there wasn't an actual emergency.
Make sure they understand it's for emergencies only and not to play pranks etc. But - please do not use this number to practice calling - please UNPLUG the phone while you practice
How To Describe Where You Are Located?
Look for street names, big signs, or buildings you know.
Tell the dispatcher where you were coming from, where you are now and where you were going to (i.e. we left home to go to grandma's house).
Tell the dispatcher if you are in a car, walking, or riding a bike, in a store, etc.
When should you NOT call 9-1-1?
When there is no emergency
For animals (for your pets, cats in trees)
As a game or prank
As a joke
For information (Call 4-1-1 or 2-1-1)
For directions (Sea World, Zoo etc)
For directory assistance
For paying tickets
When you're bored and just want to talk.

Please note: At the first signs of symptoms, if you are feeling ill, have trouble breathing, strange aches and pains - see your doctor as soon as possible. Often people wait too long, experiencing these symptoms for days - it may be too late when you finally seek help.

Stay Safe - Monica Zech, Safety Educator, City of El Cajon - for more safety information visit www.elcajonfire.com or www.elcajonpolice.org - for a safety lecture contact me at mzech@ci.el-cajon.ca.us or call (619) 441-1737.

For more safety information please visit our web site at El Cajon Fire.com

* Monica Zech is the Public Information Officer and Safety Educator for the City of El Cajon and for El Cajon Police and Fire Departments. For safety tips please visit El Cajon Fire.com In community work, Zech is the President on the board for the Trauma Research Education Foundation-TREF and a board member with Communities Against Substance Abuse-CASA. In March, Monica received the County's 2005 Individual Health Champion Award for her safety lectures in the community and throughout the county. Email mzech@ci.el-cajon.ca.us and visit Zech's Web Site ,or Monica Zech at (619) 441-1737.

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