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When should you call 911?

Calls to 911 should be reserved for emergencies such as:

A serious medical emergency (chest pains, seizures, bleeding, etc.)
Any type of fire (structure, vehicle, brush, etc.)
Any crime in-progress (robbery, burglary, prowler, fights, etc.)
Any other life threatening situations (traffic accident with injuries, etc.).

What happens when you call 911?

In order to correctly assess the situation for a prioritized response, you will be asked certain questions which are vital to the safety of the caller and the responding Police, Fire or EMS units.

The Location

When you call 911, the Telecommunicator is automatically provided with the phone number and the location that you are calling from. You will be asked to verify this information since quite often individuals call 911 from locations other than where the incident is occurring. If you call 911 from a cell phone, this vital information is not provided. It is very important that you provide the phone number and location to the Telecommunicator when using a cell phone.

The Problem

The Telecommunicator will ask if your emergency is related to Police, Fire/Rescue or Emergency Medical Service. At this point you should give a quick description of what occurred. Then you will be asked a series of questions which are extremely important to the proper handling of the call. These may include:
  • Is anyone injured?
  • How long ago did the incident occur?
  • Were there weapons involved and if so, what type?
  • Did the suspect flee, and if so, which direction?
  • What was the mode of transportation, a car, bike or on foot?
  • If a vehicle was involved, what was the description and what was the direction of travel?
  • What was the physical description of the suspect?
  • What was the clothing description?
Although these may seem like an unreasonable number of questions during an emergency, they are very important to emergency personnel. For example, if a burglary has just occurred and the suspect flees, the officers have a much better chance of apprehending the suspect if they have a good description of the suspect and the direction that was taken. More important, if the incident in question involved a weapon, the life of the Officer may depend on the information given.

One common misconception of Public Safety Communications is that Telecommunicators wait until finishing the call before sending help. During a true emergency, the Telecommunicators work as a team. One remains on the line with the caller and passes on information to another Telecommunicator, who dispatches Police Officers, Firefighters or other emergency personnel.

It is very important that you stay on the line during a call to 911 unless your life is threatened by doing so. The Telecommunicator will continue to ask you questions while the Emergency Units are en route.

What should I do if I call 911 by mistake?

If you call 911 by mistake, DO NOT HANG UP. Stay on the line and explain that you do not actually have an emergency. If a caller to 911 hangs up without stating the problem, the caller must be contacted in order to ensure that no actual emergency exists. This may involve the dispatching of an officer to your home or place of business in order to ensure that a problem does not exist. One common misconception that citizens have about dialing 911 by mistake is they will somehow get into trouble. This is not true!

If I need assistance, but it's not an emergency, what number do I call?

If you need assistance, but it is not of an emergency nature, please call our non-emergency line at (304) 824-3443. Examples of calls which should be placed to the non-emergency line are:
  • Traffic accidents which do not involve injuries.
  • Loud music or barking dogs.
  • Late reported incidents such as a theft with no suspect information.
  • Requests for information, weather reports or road conditions.
  • To report utility problems, such as power outages, phone and water repairs or malfunctioning traffic signals.
  • To ask for directions and/or road names.
  • General information requests pertaining to police reports or correctional facilities.
  • Keys locked in vehicles (unless someone is trapped inside the vehicle)
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