Talking to Your Dispatcher: What to Do When Calling 911

Press release provided by the California Highway Patrol:



The safety of the public, as well as law enforcement and first responders, frequently depends on a group of highly trained professionals who are heard far more often than they are seen.  The California Highway Patrol (CHP) honors these skilled men and women during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, April 12 – 18, 2015.

“I am very proud of our dedicated professionals and the services they provide the public every single day,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow.  “Public Safety Telecommunicators, or dispatchers, are the first and most critical contact people have with emergency services.  In addition to assisting the public, they help our officers in the field by providing valuable information, so that officers can get the job done on the front lines.”

CHP dispatchers handle the majority of California’s wireless 9-1-1 emergency and non-emergency calls.  Dispatchers ensure the appropriate assistance is provided, whether it is sending an officer to respond to a call, or contacting fire, ambulance, or other emergency services.  In addition, they are in constant radio communication with the patrol officers, often assisting them by looking up vehicle identification, license plate and driver license numbers, or by running checks for wanted subjects.
The CHP has 25 communications centers statewide that employ more than 900 public safety dispatchers.  Last year these employees were responsible for handling approximately

9.3 million calls for service.

Calling 9-1-1 can be intimidating.  The following tips will help callers during an emergency.

  • Stay as calm as possible.
  • Be prepared to provide your name, phone number, address or location and a detailed description of the incident or vehicle being reported.
  • Cellular telephones may not tell the call-taker where you are.  The location of the emergency may be the single most important information for the dispatcher in case the call is cut off.
  • Wait for the dispatcher to ask questions, and then answer clearly and calmly.
  • Listen carefully and follow all directions provided by the dispatcher.
  • Be prepared to provide a physical description if the emergency involves a criminal suspect.
  • Remember, 9-1-1 is for life-threatening emergencies.  Misuse of the emergency 9-1-1 system will result in a delay for callers with real emergencies and is punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000.

The mission of the California Highway Patrol is to provide the highest level of Safety, Service, and Security to the people of California.


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