Common Questions from Dispatchers

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What Types of Questions will Dispatchers Ask?

When you call 911, the dispatchers will ask specific questions used to gather as much information as possible. This information will be used to help police, fire and EMS to fully understand the situation before coming to your aid. The more information emergency responders know, the faster they can come to your aid!


  • What is the location of the emergency?
    • If you don’t know the exact address, let the dispatcher know, and describe:

      • Cross streets or landmarks

      • Business names or parks nearby

      • House numbers surrounding you

      • If calling inside a home, look for mail with an address

      • If hunting with GPS, offer coordinates to dispatcher.

  • What is the phone number you’re calling from?
    • This is the number to the phone you’re actually calling from. Dispatchers need this information in case they have to call you back for more information.

    • If you are not at home, do not provide a home phone number.

    • Make sure you know your cell phone number.

  • What is the problem?
    • Make sure you tell dispatchers exactly what the problem is, and exactly what happened. Be concise, and provide details of the actual situation, not what led to the situation.

      • Examples: “I see a fight on the corner of Broadway and West End”, “My ex-boyfriend just kicked my door in”, “There is a car accident at US highway 63 and State Highway 11”.

  • Who is involved?
    • Are you involved or a witness? Provide the suspects name if you know, or provide a detailed description. Is the suspect still at the scene of the emergency? Or have the left? Provide as many details as possible to dispatchers. Things to describe include:

      • Name

      • Male or female, white/black/Hispanic/Asian

      • Short/tall-heavy/thin

      • Beard, bald, hair color and style of hair

      • Jacket, shirt, pants description

      • Boots, tennis shoes, sandals

      • Did they leave on foot or in a vehicle

      • Direction of their travel

  • Vehicle Information of Suspect
    • Color- was it light or dark

    • Year- newer or older model

    • Make/model- as specific as possible

    • Additional information- toolbox, window decals, bumper stickers, broken window, damage, etc.

    • License- plate number and state, even partial information can help!

  • What kind of clothes are you wearing? Will you be at the scene when respondents arrive?
    • Dispatchers may ask you these types of personal questions so that emergency respondents can find you at the scene and ask you additional questions that could help to save someone’s life, or provide more insight into what happened.

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When you call 911 for a medical emergency, dispatchers will ask you a series of questions to help them determine what the best course of action is for emergency respondents. The paramedics will be better prepared to help the patient if they have all the information you are able to provide. EMS can also help you by providing the proper steps to take until the paramedics arrive at the scene.

Some common information that is good to include:

  • Location of the patient at the scene of emergency

  • Address of emergency

  • If the situation is happening inside or outside

  • If you are with the patient, or if you merely saw an accident occur

Dispatchers may ask the following types of questions to help them assess the scene:

  • What is happening with the patient right now?

    • Do you know what caused the accident (fall, stabbing, history of health problems, etc.)

  • How old is the patient?

    • If you know the patient's exact age, tell dispatchers! If not, describe a general age frame (child, teen, young adult, middle aged, or elderly).

  • Is the patient conscious and breathing?

    • This is important for dispatchers to know, as it can indicate the severity of an injury and will alert EMS to respond accordingly.

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If you call 911 to report a fire, the most important information to convey is the location of the fire. Letting dispatchers know exactly where the fire is happening can help them send the correct emergency services and help stop the fire quickly.

Some common things to include in your description of the fire include:

  • Building type, vehicle or grass

  • Size of the fire

    • You can estimate using commonly know sizes such as a football field, vehicle size, parking lot space, bedroom, or grocery store!

  • Nearby structures that may be in the path of the fire.

    • Important to tell dispatchers what is close to the fire so they can properly alert occupants.

  • If anyone is inside the house or building that is on fire.

  • If anyone is injured or needs medical attention.

  • The color of the smoke and flames.

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