COLUMN: Tips when calling 9-1-1

Submitted photo.
Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown.

Have you ever thought about what you need to tell a dispatcher when you call 9-1-1 in an emergency? Your Ellis County Sheriff’s Office dispatchers would like to share some tips with you that will help all involved.

The primary piece of information we need from you is your address. We need to make sure we have your phone number and name, along with the type of emergency that is occurring.

In particular, cell phone information is not always captured by the system. The system first tells us what tower the signal is coming off of, and then it gives us the location. This is a process that typically takes only seconds, but if you hang up too quickly, it may fail to collect the information.

There can also be issues with capturing the information from the smaller cell phone providers – and sometimes, if your 9-1-1 call has been transferred to us, that fails to bring the information over. Please stay on the phone with us, at least until we have all of the information we need.

Background noises like a radio and other telephone conversations going on or being outside in the wind can make it difficult for us to hear what you’re saying, so be sure your phone is sheltered as much as possible. Stay as calm as you can and do your best to talk in a normal tone and speed.

Our dispatchers will be asking questions: Listen for those and give us as much information as you can in response. When you’re describing people, we need their physical description and clothing description. We’ll want to know everyone who has weapons and what kind. If there’s anything that stands out about a person – a visible tattoo, birthmark or physical trait like a limp, that’s information you can give us that our dispatchers can then give to the responding deputies. You may also be asked about people’s state of mind and whether they’re angry, confused or intoxicated. This is all information that we ask for to ensure the safety of those responding to the scene and for the citizens who may be around the location.

If there’s a vehicle involved, the dispatchers will ask questions about the type (Is it a car, truck or van?), color, is it a newer or older vehicle if you don’t know the year, is there any damage or something noteworthy about the vehicle such as tinted windows, a distinctive bumper or a sticker on the window?

You’ll be asked about the number of occupants in the vehicle and if they’re younger or older, male or female, descriptions. Besides the license plate number, do make a note of the state the plate was issued from. Even a partial license plate number can be helpful. If you don’t know the suspect vehicle’s direction of travel, if you can at least tell us which way it was last seen facing can be helpful.

Please don’t hesitate to call us if you see something that’s suspicious or out of place, or as soon as you discover or witness a crime. The longer you wait to call us the more difficult it may be for us to address whatever’s going on and bring any perpetrators to justice.

Our dispatchers are almost always that first contact you make when an emergency arises. They are there to help you; let them do so by giving them the information they need and responding to their questions. It’s why we refer to them as the thin golden line that connects everyone.

As always, the Sheriff’s Office asks that you keep our military and service personnel in our thoughts and prayers. We enjoy all of our rights and freedoms because of their service and safekeeping of our great nation. Y’all have a Blessed Week from your Sheriff’s Office.