911 Emergencies

Marion County 911 receives over 18,000 emergency calls per year. In order to better serve our communities during times of medical, police and fire emergencies, we ask that you help us by knowing what a 911 call is intended for and by providing us with the necessary information.

When to Call 911


In an emergency, call 911 immediately from any wired or wireless phone.

An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police, fire department or ambulance. Examples include:

  • A fire
  • A crime, especially if in progress
  • A car crash, especially if someone is injured
  • A medical emergency, such as someone who is unconscious, gasping for air or not breathing, experiencing an allergic reaction, having chest pain, having uncontrollable bleeding, or any other symptoms that require immediate medical attention.

*Circumstances in which you should not call 911:

  • To request or provide information that does not need immediate attention.
  • For weather updates or when the outdoor emergency warning sirens are activated.
  • To report power or phone outages.
  • To ask for directions or street names.
  • To report an abandoned vehicle.
Important: If you’re not sure whether the situation is a true emergency, officials recommend calling 911 and letting the call-taker determine whether you need emergency help.

When you call 911, be prepared to answer the call-taker’s questions, which may include:

  • The location of the emergency, including the street address
  • The phone number you are calling from
  • The nature of the emergency
  • Details about the emergency, such as a physical description of a person who may have committed a crime, a description of any fire that may be burning, or a description of injuries or symptoms being experienced by a person having a medical emergency.

Remember, the call-taker’s questions are important to get the right kind of help to you quickly.

Be prepared to follow any instructions the call-taker gives you. Many 911 centers can tell you exactly what to do to help in an emergency until help arrives, such as providing step-by-step instructions to aid someone who is choking or needs first aid or CPR.

Finally, do not hang up until the call-taker instructs you to.

If you dial 911 by mistake, or if a child in your home dials 911 when no emergency exists, do not hang up—that could make 911 officials think that an emergency exists, and possibly send responders to your location. Instead, simply explain to the call-taker what happened.

Using 911 Appropriately

Since 911 was introduced in 1968 as a universal number for reaching emergency assistance, efforts to raise public awareness about 911 have been effective—perhaps too effective, some reports have speculated. Because most people face emergency situations only rarely, they lack firsthand experience with 911.

As a result, they may have unreasonable expectations about what will happen when they contact 911 for emergency assistance. Thus, many public safety answering points (PSAPs) follow protocols that reassure callers and guide them through a sequence of questions and instructions that help call-takers take charge of the situation and to quickly obtain information that is needed to dispatch the right responders to the right location.

Generally speaking, people are aware that they should call 911 in an emergency, but they are less aware of the circumstances in which they should not call 911*. The result is that many calls to 911 do not involve true emergencies, which creates a burden on the system.

Newspapers, TV news and websites have publicized a growing number of cases in which people called 911 to complain about such non-emergency situations as inquiring about parking tickets, asking for advice on cooking a turkey or being dissatisfied with their order at a fast-food drive-through. Tapes of such calls have even provided ongoing fodder for late-night TV comedians, with one show featuring a recurring segment on the subject.

Inappropriate use of 911 can be expected to continue, or possibly even grow, as 911 services become available through enhanced technologies and via new communications methods such as text messaging. In addition, public expectations for 911 technology may exceed the actual capabilities of the 911 system, and there may be instances where, for example, people send a text message to 911 requesting emergency assistance, instead of calling. In such a case, the caller might not be aware that the text message did not go through.

(Source: 911.gov)