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Calling 911


Calling 911

WHAT IS 911? "9-1-1" is the three digit telephone number designated in the United States as the universal emergency number. Over 85% of citizens nationwide can request emergency assistance by dialing 911.

    You should call 911 to report any police, fire, or medical emergency.

    Call 911 to report:
    • Crimes in progress or crimes that have just occurred
    • Suspicious activity or behavior
    • Fights or riots
    • Suicide attempts
    • Building fires, brush fires, trash fires, or any other fires
    • Severe traffic accidents
    • Any medical emergency for which immediate care is needed
    • Vicious animals

    You should not call 911 to report any non-emergency problem or to ask questions.

    Do not call 911:
    • To get the time or temperature (instead, call 342-9011)
    • To ask questions about city issues or activities (instead, call 853-2000)
    • To request directory assistance (instead, call 411)
    • To report problems with a payphone (instead, call 611)
    • For non-emergency information during widespread disasters or emergencies (instead, tune to local radio and television stations for instructions)
    • For non-emergency police issues such as loud noise or previous crimes (instead, call 344-6681)
    • To report child abuse or suspected child abuse (instead, call 853-2245, 24 hours a day) * Not In Progress*
    • For general animal control (instead, call 853-2891)
    • To discuss legal questions (instead, call 1-800-552-7977)
    • To arrange for regular ambulance transportation to medical appointments (instead, call your health care provider)
    • To report broken street lights or traffic lights, broken glass on roads, sinkholes,or other public works issues (instead, call 853-2000)
    • For questions about solid waste collection or recycling (instead, call 853-2000)
    • For broken water lines or water/sewer issues contact Western VA Water Authority 366-2811 (24hrs)

    The city of Roanoke appreciates conscientous citizens who report problems or concerns. Calling 911 for non-emergencies or calling 911 as a prank ties up emergency dispatchers who could be handling actual emergencies.

    Calling 911 for a non-emergency could cost a life. In addition, state law prohibits knowingly calling 911 to provide false information about a person being in danger, to falsely request police assistance, to falsely request fire or emergency medical assistance, or to annoy or harass dispatchers. Calling 911 for any of these purposes constitutes a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail, up to $2,500 in fines, or both.
    A Professional Emergency Dispatcher will answer your call and request information about your emergency. Based on the nature of the emergency, the dispatcher will summon police, fire, or emergency medical response. When you call 911, tell the dispatcher the following information:
    • Your exact location, or as much information about your location as possible
    • The nature of the emergency (someone has a gun, my house is on fire, my neighbor collapsed, etc.)
    • How many people are injured, if any
    • Names and descriptions of the people involved in the emergency
    • Any conditions which could make the situation unsafe for responding personnel or bystanders (weapons, gas leaks, disabled vehicles, animals, etc.)

    Stay on the line until the dispatcher hangs up. You may be able to provide the dispatcher with additional information as emergency personnel respond, or the dispatcher may be able to provide you with emergency instructions.
    As soon as your call is received, the information is sent to the appropriate agency for dispatching. All calls must be prioritized to insure the safety of the citizens and the responding personnel. Calls that occurred earlier in the day may be held so more urgent calls may be dispatched first.

    Some situations are more urgent than others. Most often these calls are calls in progress, such as breaking-and-entering, assaults, and suicide attempts. All calls involving weapons are considered URGENT calls and are dispatched immediately. Weapons can consist of objects such as guns, knives, baseball bats, broom handles, bottles, and razors. All weapons pose a threat to citizens as well as the responding personnel. It is VERY important to tell the dispatcher if a weapon is or was involved in the emergency.
    Prior to 911, many emergency calls were handled by telephone company operators. With the advent of the 911 system, emergency calls should not be placed by dialing 0 for the operator. Although the operator can in most cases transfer the call to 911, he or she may not be familiar with your jurisdiction, and your call may be significantly delayed.
    All calls to 911 are recorded on tape for a set period of time in case they are needed in later investigations and in order to ensure the highest level of professional service to our citizens. These tapes are never released to the media or to the public without a court order. In addition, callers to 911 may choose to remain anonymous by not giving their names or other identifying information if this information is not relevant to the emergency.
    Many hang-up 911 calls are made by children playing on the phone. Each time this happens, a 911 dispatcher must immediately call the home back to determine whether or not there is an emergency. If there is no answer on callback, police are dispatched. If there is an answer on callback, the dispatcher will attempt to speak to an adult to insure all is well. We ask adults to not punish children who call 911 and hang up, but rather explain to them 911 should only be used in an emergency. If children are punished for accidentally calling 911, it may scare them from ever using it in the future, whether they have a legitimate emergency or not.

    City dispatchers will do a presentation to groups of children and demonstrate 911 using our simulator. Children can practice calling 911 in a learning environment, both using a home telephone and a coin telephone. They learn calling 911 from a pay telephone is FREE and that the dispatcher knows their location when using either phone. They will see a real dispatcher answer their call for help. They also learn what information will be asked of them and why. We explain KIDS SAVE LIVES, TOO. This program has been very successful in day care centers and elementary schools. The simulator is mainly for children, but we do have a program geared for adults as well. We have found elderly adults enjoy learning how the 911 system works.

    To arrange a demonstration for your group, please contact the E-911 Center at 540-853-2411.