FAQs

in case of emergency

What is 9-1-1?

9-1-1 is the number most people in the United States, and some other countries, call to get help in a police, fire, or medical emergency. A 9-1-1 call goes over dedicated phone lines to the 9-1-1 call center closest to the caller, and trained personnel then send the emergency help needed.

What is Enhanced 9-1-1?

It is the system that routes an emergency call to the appropriate 9-1-1 center and automatically provides the 9-1-1 call taker with the caller’s phone number and location information. If the call originates from a cell phone, the system will provide the caller’s phone number, and if available, the location of the phone or the tower that received the signal.

Who pays for 9-1-1?

A small monthly fee for 9-1-1 service appears on the phone bill for each telephone line (both land line and cellular). There is no per-call charge for calling 9-1-1, even from a phone booth.

When should I call 9-1-1?

9-1-1 is for emergencies only. You should only dial 9-1-1 if someone is hurt, in danger, or if you are in need of police, fire, or emergency medical assistance. If you are not sure your situation is an emergency, you should error on the side of safety and call 9-1-1.

Do not call 9-1-1:

  • For information, directory assistance, or for specific phone numbers
  • When you are bored and just want to talk
  • To pay traffic tickets
  • To get help for your pet
  • As a prank
  • For non-life threatening situations
  • For a crime that is no longer in progress

Why does the 9-1-1 Calltaker ask so many questions?

The 9-1-1 Calltaker is trained to ask a series of questions. Some questions are always the same:

  • “Huntsville-Madison County 9-1-1. What is the location of the emergency?”
  • “What is the telephone number you are calling from?”
  • “Tell me exactly what happened.”call taker - red

Once the initial information and nature of the emergency is determined, the appropriate public safety responders are dispatched (Police, Fire, and/or Emergency Medical Services). Depending on the type of emergency, the 9-1-1 Calltaker may need to keep you on the line to provide further instructions or information until help arrives.

Why does 9-1-1 ask for my telephone number and location?

9-1-1 receives the telephone number and location of a caller most of the time but there are occasions when the information is not transferred correctly through the E911 system and the calltaker needs to verify the information that is displayed is correct.

How does the 9-1-1 Calltaker know my address?

If you don’t know the address you are calling from, many times your address and telephone number will automatically appear on the 9-1-1 Calltaker’s computer screen. However, this is not foolproof and does not work with cell phones. The 9-1-1 Calltaker will always ask you to tell them your location and telephone number.

What if I do not know where I am?

At times, during an emergency situations such as traffic accidents, you may not know where you are. The 9-1-1 Calltaker will ask you about landmarks, businesses, what roads you took, etc. Remember, it is your responsibility to take note of what street you are on, what cross streets you are near, what mile makers you passed, etc. Keeping your location in mind will enable the 9-1-1 Calltaker to dispatch help more quickly and efficiently.

What if I am calling from my cell phone?

When you dial 9-1-1 from your cell phone, your call will not necessarily hit the nearest cell phone tower. You may occasionally hit a tower in another county/city and you call will be directed to the wrong 9-1-1 Center. Just advise the exact location of the emergency and the 9-1-1 Calltaker from that 9-1-1 Center will transfer you to the Huntsville-Madison County 9-1-1 Center. Also, keep in mind that cell phone calls are not always clear. Please be patient as the 9-1-1 Calltaker is doing everything they can to assist you.

Why does my cell phone call 9-1-1 by accident?

Many of us use our cell phones, hang up, and set the cell phone in a holder or on the passenger seat. Many cell phones are pre-programmed to call 9-1-1 when a certain key is pressed. Be sure to lock your key pad so 9-1-1 is not accidentally dialed. However, if this does happen, stay on the line and advise that it was an accidental dial.911 image

Can I text 9-1-1?

Do not try to text a message to 9-1-1. Text messaging is not available in Madison County. 9-1-1 can only receive callsfrom telephones, cell phones, or special telephones (TTY’s used by people who have trouble hearing or speaking).

What if I can only communicate by TDD or computer?

The Emergency Communications 9-1-1 Center is equipped with TDD (Teletype Device for the Deaf) detectors which enable the 9-1-1 Calltaker’s to communicate with TDD’s from their workstations.

What happens if I don’t speak English?

The Huntsville-Madison County 9-1-1 Systemprovide translation services for all languages. The Emergency Communications 9-1-1 Center has access to LanguageLine services providing translation for over 140 languages.

What happens if I hang up immediately after calling 9-1-1?

Many 9-1-1 hang-up calls are made by children playing with the telephone. Each time a 9-1-1 hang-up call is received, the 9-1-1 Calltaker will call back the phone number to determine if there is an emergency. If there is no answer on callback, law enforcement personnel will be dispatched to check the well-being of any persons at that location.

If, on callback, there is an answer, the 9-1-1 Calltaker will question the person who answers the phone to determine if an emergency exists. If a child answers the phone on a callback, the 9-1-1 Calltaker will request to speak to an adult to ensure everything is okay.

We ask that adults not punish children who call 9-1-1 when no emergency exists. This is an excellent opportunity to teach them when and how to call 9-1-1. If children are punished for calling 9-1-1, it may scare them from using it in the future should a legitimate emergency arise.

 

911 emergency phone

Helping Kids Understand How to Be a Responsible 9-1-1 Caller

What should you tell the 9-1-1 Calltaker?

The most important information the 9-1-1 Calltaker needs is the exact address or location. If you do not know the address, you should look around for a street sign or a store with a name on it so the 9-1-1 Calltaker can help the police, fire, or ambulance find you. Memorize important things about your home like your complete address. If you live in an apartment complex, know your building number, floor level, and apartment number. It is also helpful if you know your telephone number, and your parent’s names.

What else can you do to help the 9-1-1 Calltaker?

Try to stay calm, answer the questions as well as you can, and follow the directions that the 9-1-1 Calltaker gives you. You will get help much faster if you can tell the 9-1-1 Calltaker everything that is happening and answer the questions so the right kind of help can be sent. Stay on the phone until the 9-1-1 Calltaker tells you to hang up.