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Calling 911: the basics

Review these 911 basics with your entire household. Everyone should be 911 aware!

911: What you need to know

A life threatening emergency or in progress crime such as:

• Serious medical emergency (chest pains, seizures, bleeding, etc.)
• Fires (structure, vehicle, brush, etc.)
• Crimes in progress (shooting, robbery, burglary, prowler, fights, etc.)
• Life threatening situations (traffic accident with injuries, etc.)

Please use 911 responsibly. Call only if you need an emergency response from police, fire, or medics.
For non-emergencies, call the local police or fire department, or other appropriate agency.

  • Noise complaints
  • Found property
  • ID theft/fraud
  • Vandalism
  • Vehicle prowl (not in progress)
  • Fireworks complaint

A call taker will ask you a series of questions. A list of questions that may be asked:

  • Location. Know where you are and/or what is nearby. The call taker may receive some information from your phone as to where you are, but they will want to verify the location with you.
  • Police/Fire/Medical. The call taker will ask what is going on or what happened to determine what type of help is needed.
  • Time Frame. Is the event in progress or did it happen yesterday. The call taker will need to know when the event happened to know how to prioritize the information.
  • Weapons. Safety information like weapons, drugs, or alcohol will be asked for everyone’s safety.
  • Description. Vehicles and people descriptions will be necessary to help the first responder identify people and vehicles involved.

Accidental calls happen. If you accidentally dial 911, DO NOT HANG UP! Even if you don’t think your call went through, it may have. 911 will call back all hangups to verify there is no emergency. The best thing to do is to stay on the line to let us know you are fine.

  • Power outage - call local utility
  • Traffic information - call 511
  • Digging - call 811
  • Information - call 411
  • Call 988 or 800-273-TALK (8255) for suicide prevention and mental health crisis services
  • If you're suicidal right now, call 911

211 is a free confidential community services

Services 211 can help with:

  • Utility assistance
  • Food
  • Housing
  • Health
  • Childcare
  • After school programs
  • Elder care
  • Crisis intervention

Social services - King County, Washington

Call 911 if you can, text if you can’t. Texting is a vital tool that increases accessibility to emergency services. If you need to text 911 in an emergency, follow the step-by-step instructions below:
  • Open the text messaging program on your cell phone
  • Create a new message
  • Enter the numbers 911 in the “To” field
  • Send the location of the emergency – including city – and the type of emergency help needed (police, fire, or medical) in the first message
  • Keep text messages brief and concise
  • Type complete words, no abbreviations
  • Stay with your phone and be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from 911 call takers
  • Limitations to Text to 911 include:
    • No pictures, videos, or emojis
    • Texting can only be in English
    • Texting can be slower than making a voice call
  • TTY is also still available in all 911 center. TTY is still available in all 911 centers for people who are deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing and speech disabled or dial 711 for relay services to access 911

There are multiple types of phones and devices that can access 911.

  • Landlines. Traditional phones that use analog telephone lines for connection.  
  • Cell phones. Cell phones with or without current phone plans can access 911.
  • VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). Uses traditional phone numbers while using broadband internet connection. VoIP requires power and may not work in the event of a power outage.
  • Devices. Devices such as smart watches, fall detection devices, accident detection in vehicles, etc. can access 911.