This Is The First Thing You Need To Say When Calling 911 From Your Cell Phone

When you’re in an emergency situation, the first thing you do, of course, is call 911. It’s often hard to remain calm and think straight in the middle of an emergency.

While it’s important to explain the situation and say who you are, it’s even more important to first tell the dispatcher where you are.

If you are able to call 911 from a landline, you should. Landlines are associated with street addresses, which can help emergency crews find your location in the event that your phone call is cut off.

landline photo
Flickr | Karolina Kabat

If that’s not possible, you’ll have to call from your cell phone. The FCC estimates that 70 percent of 911 calls are made from cell phones.

It may seem like in this day and age, when GPS is integrated into every device we come in contact with, that 911 dispatchers should be able to figure where we are based on a cell phone call — whether or not we actually tell them. But that is not the case.

According to the FCC, 911 calls from mobile phones pose unique challenges.


First, because cell phones are mobile, they are not associated with an exact location or address, like a landline phone would be. The location of the cell site closest to the caller can give the operator a general idea of where you’re calling from, but it’s not specific enough to send help quickly.

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Second, cell phones can drop calls and there have even been cases where subscribers of certain cell services were simply unable to call 911. It happened with AT&T in 2017 and Verizon Wireless in 2015.


After telling the dispatcher your exact location, give them your phone number. Telling them your number will ensure that if your call were to drop or if, in the haze that is an emergency situation, you accidentally hang up the phone, the dispatcher can call you back.

911 dispatcher photo
Flickr | Offutt Air Force Base

If you don’t know the street number of your location, try to provide the closest intersection information and details about where you are located.

If you’re in a place where you are unfamiliar with the address, the 911 dispatcher may ask you to look around for a piece of mail to find it.


Once your location and phone number is established, tell the dispatcher your name and explain the situation.

Remaining calm is important, as it helps the dispatcher understand what is happening, so he or she can send the correct help as quickly as possible.

Providing all of the relevant details in an emergency situation can be quite difficult, but if you can at least remember what to say first, it could literally mean the difference between life and death.


Speaking of emergency situations, it’s also a good idea to list “in case of emergency” contacts into your phone, in the even that you are ever in an emergency situation where you aren’t able to provide information to emergency responders.


Many emergency responders know to look for this when attempting to contact family or friends when a patient is unresponsive and unable to provide details about himself or herself.

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And whether you have an iPhone or Android device, there are ways to program your phone so that emergency contacts can be accessed even when the device is locked. Don’t forget to enable this after establishing ICE contacts, or your contacts will likely be unreachable unless you are conscious and able to provide your password.

[h/t: Life Hacker]

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