When to Call 911

What is 9-1-1?   This page was written for “Citizen Awareness” by Monterey County Communications Center.

9-1-1 is the telephone number to use when you need immediate police, fire, or medical assistance.

Dial 9-1-1 For:

Crimes in progress
Life-threatening situations
Traffic accidents
Injuries requiring emergency medical attention
Hazardous chemical spills
Fire/smoke detector or carbon monoxide alarms that are sounding
Sparking electrical hazards
Smoke in a building
Or any other emergency, if in doubt, call 9-1-1

Don’t Dial 9-1-1 For:

Reporting a leaking fire hydrant (contact appropriate city agency)
Inquiring about a large fire or another incident (tune in to your local news)
Seeking information about a previous call (look in your local phone book for the 7-digit non-emergency number)
For other non-emergency incidents, contact the appropriate City Agency.

Do not call 9-1-1 if you do not have a real emergency. Non-emergency calls to 9-1-1 can delay response to true emergencies. However, if you are in doubt if your situation is an emergency, call 9-1-1.

What To Do When Calling 9-1-1?

When you get on the phone with a Monterey County 9-1-1 Dispatcher, it is important to remember the following to get help to your emergency as quickly as possible:

Remain Calm.
Be prepared to give the correct address of your emergency and the phone number from where you are calling.
Stay on the phone with the dispatcher. Do not hang up until the dispatcher tells you to hang up. Keep in mind that help is being sent simultaneously as the dispatcher takes your information.
If you are in a secured area, be sure to let the dispatcher know the fastest way for emergency responders to gain access, i.e., gate code, guard, etc.

Informational Questions That Might Be Asked

When you call 9-1-1 or 3-1-1 you will be asked to:

Briefly explain the nature of your emergency or complaint.
The address of where the incident is occurring.
Your name, address, and telephone number.

Why do we ask questions in a particular order? The location of occurrence is so we know where to send the help. That might be the first question a Dispatcher or Call Taker will ask you. Why? If we get disconnected, or there’s a phone problem, the location of the incident is the minimum amount of information needed to send help. Since the address has such great importance, please be sure to give a full description of your location. For example;

Provide an apartment number or building number if you live in a large apartment complex.
Provide a suite number and business name if it is occurring in a business complex.
If at a park, give us a description of where you are within the park. Be specific. Are you near the restrooms, the baseball diamond, the front entrance, or in the back of the park by the picnic tables? If you’re reporting something while driving, provide the closest cross streets to where the incident is occurring. For example: On Santa Clara St between 1st St and 2nd St or at the corner of Tully Rd and White Rd.

Why do we ask for your name and address next? Once an officer arrives at the location you originally provided, it is not uncommon for the situation or location to have changed. We will often use your address as a starting point to search for what you reported. We will typically send two officers to calls. One officer will go in one direction from your address, while the other will go in the opposite direction. Both are searching for the incident you called about. Officers may respond back to your address and talk to you for additional information if they’re unable to find anything but only if you’re okay with being contacted.

Once we have the very basic information we need to send help, the Dispatcher or Call Taker will start asking more questions such as:

Who caused the incident when the incident occurred?
Why do you think the incident happened?

The questions we ask will be different if the incident is in progress rather than if the situation occurred the night before. If the incident you are calling about just occurred, or 5 to 10 minutes prior, the next set of questions we ask may be about the person you think is responsible for causing the problem or the situation.

So let’s talk about how to describe a person or suspect.

How to Describe a Person or Suspect

When we give a suspect description to an officer, we describe that person in a certain
manner. We start from the top of our heads and work our way down to the toes. For example, we might say something like this:

White male adult about 5’ feet 7” tall, blond hair, blue eyes, with a mustache and goatee.

For the clothing description, we start from the outside and move in towards the body from the top of the head and move down to the toes. For example;

The subject is wearing a red jacket, blue flannel shirt with a white t-shirt underneath, black belt with a rodeo-type belt buckle, blue jeans, and brown cowboy boots.

Information Needed If A Vehicle Was Involved

How would one give information to the Dispatcher or Call Taker if a vehicle was involved? There are certain questions asked, and in a certain order for a vehicle description. The reason we ask these questions in this way is that the officer responding to the call may spot a similar vehicle on the way to your call, the same color or year, or the same make or body style. If possible, we would like the license plate too.

So here is a list of questions the Dispatcher or Call Taker may ask about the description of a vehicle:

Color >> Year >> Make >> Body Style >> Miscellaneous information (does it have a ski rack on the roof, or there is a huge sticker in the rear window) >> License Plate.