Calling 9-1-1

How does the 9-1-1 system work?
The Communications Center uses a computer-based telephone phone system. Along with a number of enhanced statistical gathering features, which are transparent to the caller, the system provides even more immediate access to hearing-and speech-impaired persons calling for assistance and caller-ID information in emergendes. When a 9-1-1 call is placed from a regular (wire line) telephone, the address and telephone number from where the call is being placed is displayed for the dispatcher. While this address information is fairly reliable, the dispatcher will still confirm the location of the emergency to ensure that help is sent to the right location.

What happens if I call 9-1-1 using a VoIP (Internet) Phone?
9-1-1 calls placed using recently released "Voice Over Internet Protocol" (VoIP) telephones (for example: Vonage, AT&T CallVantage, etc) may be routed in different ways depending on the service provider. The dispatcher mayor may not have your address information depending on your service provider. It is best to assume that the dispatcher does NOT have your exact location when calling 9-1-1 from a VolP phone. It is important to notify your VolP provider any time you change the physical location of your VolP telephone to ensure that your telephone call is routed to the correct 9-1-1 center.

IMPORTANT: VolP providers may Ship equipment that does not have the ability to dial 9-1-1. Many times, users must visit a special website or call a special telephone number in order to activate 9-1-1 service. It is important to read the documentation that came with the VolP equipment when it is received to ensure that 9-1-1 service is available when you need it. If you have questions about how to do this, contact
your VolP service provider.


What questions should I expect when I call 9-1-1?

Questions that you might be asked:
  • What is your location
  • What is your call back number (incase the call is dropped - especially if using a cell phone)
  • What is your emergency (what you are reporting)
  • If a crime is involved, and you saw or can see a suspect be prepared to give a description:

Please be prepared to descibe:
  • Sex, race, age, height, weight, hair color/length, color of eyes
  • Clothing - hat/cap, jacket/coat, shirt, pants, shoes
  • Other pertinent information such as scars. marks. tattoos
  • Vehicle description if necessary (license plate number, color, year, make, model, style, 2 door Of 4 door, how many occupants. and other features that stand out (dents, stickers. missing parts. etc) Last known direction of travel of suspect(s) and/or vehicle(s)

What should I expect when calling 9-1-1?

  • Remain Calm
  • Speak Clearly
  • Listen to all instructions
  • Answer all questions completely

The Communications Operator speaking with you may have many questions to ask depending upon the nature of the problem. It is very important for them to obtain as much information as possible, in the interests of responder safety or to provide the correct level of response. If you are reporting a fire emergency, you will be instructed to remain on the phone if it is safe for you to do so, while the call - taker transfers you to the dispatcher at the Fire Department. If the Communications Operator asks you to stay on the line until responders arrive, please do so! This will assist them in keeping the police squad updated as the situation you are reporting unfolds.

For example, when an armed robbery occurs the 911 call-taker alerts the appropriate dispatcher immediately of the incident in order to activate the police response. The officers will need to know, while enroute, the physical description of the robber, his method and direction of travel, what type of weapon (if any) was used or displayed, and any other pertinent information that may assist the police in capturing the suspect. The call-taker will keep the caller on the phone until the officers actually arrive on the scene.

Your cooperation is a key element in resolving any emergency that you may have!


When I call 9-1-1 where is my wireless phone (cell phone) routed?
Traditionally, all 9-1-1 calls placed by wireless phones were routed to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) dispatch center in Los Angeles, CA. During 2004, the City of Downey worked with many of the major wireless providers (Verizon, AT&T Wireless, Cingular, and Sprint) to upgrade equipment, which allows many 9-1-1 calls placed within the city limits to be routed directly to the Downey Police Communications Center.

There are still some wireless 9-1-1 calls that are routed to the CHP dispatch center (depending on the wireless provider and antenna being used). CHP will transfer callers to the apprOpriate local dispatch center if needed.

When a dispatcher receives a wireless 9-1-1 call, they will normally have available to them the caller's wireless phone number. Additionally, the dispatcher might have an approximate location of the caller expressed in latitude and longitude (depending on the type or wireless phone used by the caller). It is best to assume that the dispatcher does NOT have your exact location when calling 9-1-1 from a wireless phone. It is important for you to remain on the line and provide the dispatcher with the exact location of the emergency to ensure that units are dispatched to the correct location.


When should you call 9-1-1?
You should only call 9-1-1 when you are reporting an emergency. An emergency is a situation in which emergency services will result in the saving of a life, a reduction in the destruction of property. quicker apprehension of criminals, Of assistance with potentially life-threatening medical problems, a fire, a need for rescue, an imminent potential crime, or a similar situation in which immediate assistance is required. Do not call 9-1-1 for non-emergencies; this causes delays in the handling of real emergencies. If you have a nonemergency, you can call the Communications Center at 562-861-0770.

Click on the links below to view tips and information about making a 9-1-1 call in an emergency situation.
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