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Public Education: What Happens When You Call (E)911

For the D/deaf, late-deafened or hard-of-hearing, use your TTY device or the "Maine Relay Service"

IMPORTANT NOTE: When you call 911 from a cellular telephone it may not go to your local police/fire/medical dispatch center, so it is critical that you know where you are, including the town where the emergency is occurring so the emergency communications center can process and respond to your call quickly and effectively.


Important things to remember when reporting any incident to 911:

  1. Remain calm and speak clearly,
  2. Answer questions patiently and as completely as possible,
  3. Understand that there is a reason for every question asked,
  4. Never hang up on 911!

When you call 911 you will hear "911" or "911, what's your emergency?", or "911, what is the location of your emergency?". Ideally, you should tell the person answering the telephone what and where the emergency is, for example, "My house is on fire at (STREET & TOWN!) ", "There's someone breaking into my home at (STREET ADDRESS & TOWN!) ", or "There's a car accident at (STREET & TOWN!) ". The best and quickest way to get a response to your emergency is to patiently answer all questions asked. It can be difficult to be patient during an emergency, but remaining as calm as possible and answering questions clearly will enable help to get there much faster. When seconds count, calmness helps.

Even though your location and telephone may display on the Enhanced 911, or E-911, system, you will be asked to verify these two crucial pieces of information. The incident may be occurring at some place other than your location and the system is not foolproof. Ensuring the correct address is obtained will ensure emergency units get to the scene of the emergency as quickly as possible.

It may seem time is being wasted because you are being asked what you may think are unimportant questions, but emergency responders may already be enroute to your location and precious time may be saved by asking important questions while they are enroute. As information is gathered it is relayed to the responding agencies via radio, cell phone, or mobile data terminals. Also, while questions may seem irrelevant or obvious, the highly trained person asking them often follows a set pattern of questions proven to be important. In addition, all of the information provided is documented. Essential information includes, but is not limited to the location of the incident, name, address, telephone number of the reporting party, and what is happening.

Questions you may be asked in addition to the original information obtained:

  • Who is involved,
  • Where are they,
  • Physical description(s), including clothing,
  • Weapons involved,
  • Your description (so they can identify you at the scene),
  • Vehicle description(s),
  • Direction of travel (if they leave)
  • If you called 911 by mistake, don't hang up. Speak with the person answering the call and answer their questions. All 911 hang-up calls are called back, and if there is no answer further action may be taken.

    -----Don't let kids play with cell phones (even deactivated ones!), they can call 911!-----Prank 911 calls are a violation of the law, and may result in a fine of up to $500.00!