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Wireless Phones

Wireless Phones

Calling 9-1-1 with your mobile phone

Did you know that more than 80% of 9-1-1 calls in King County are made from wireless phones?  Here is some important information about calling 9-1-1 from your wireless phone. 

Know Your Cell Well

Did you know that you may be dialing 9-1-1 without even knowing it?

  • A phone in your pocket or purse may call 9-1-1 when it is bumped or sat on
  • A phone with no service can still call 9-1-1
  • A phone locked in emergency mode can sometimes call 9-1-1

You can help reduce these accidental 9-1-1 calls by knowing how your cell phone works and following a few simple rules:

  • Lock your cell phone's keypad when it is not in use
  • Do not give old phones to children to play with as toys
  • Know if your cell phone has an emergency mode and how it works
  • Do not program 9-1-1 into your cell phone, and if your cell has a 9-1-1 auto-dialing feature, turn it off
Stay on the line, so 9-1-1 knows you are fine

In a survey done in 2014, 29% of wireless calls to 9-1-1 were dialed accidentally. A majority of these accidental calls are hang-up before the 9-1-1 center can answer the call.

If you hang up the 9-1-1 center will attempt to call you back to determine if there is an emergency. This process takes valuable time away from answering real emergency calls.

Call if you Can, Text if you Can't

Text-to-9-1-1 is now available in King County! However, text should only be used is you are unable or it is unsafe to call 9-1-1 in an emergency. Learn more about texting.

What's your location?

King County has implemented Phase II Wireless 9-1-1 service as specified by the Federal Communications Commission with all wireless carriers who provide service here. This means that wireless 9-1-1 calls are routed based on the cell site that received the call, not the caller's exact location, and only your general location may display at the 9-1-1 center. Because of this, it is very important that you know your location and can relay the address, street names, or landmark to the call receiver that answers your 9-1-1 call. A survey done in March 2010 showed that about 17% of people who called 9-1-1 from a wireless phone in King County did not know their location. This can delay response time as the 9-1-1 call receiver attempts to obtain a valid location to be able to send police, fire or medical aid.

As with all 9-1-1 calls, it is important that you stay on the line, unless there is a threat to your safety, and that you answer all of the call receiver's questions as calmly as possible. Your call may need to be transferred to another agency, depending on your exact location and the nature of your emergency. If your phone loses service during the call or you are disconnected, call 9-1-1 as soon as you are able to re-establish a connection. If the 9-1-1 center has received your phone number, they will also attempt to call you back.

A wireless phone with no active service can still call 9-1-1

Wireless phones with no active service can still call 9-1-1, as long as they have battery power. However, be aware that limited information will be available to the 9-1-1 center, and if you are disconnected the 9-1-1 center will not be able to call you back.

There are serious problems with 9-1-1 centers receiving repeated calls from children playing with deactivated wireless phones. These calls tie up 9-1-1 lines so real emergency calls cannot get through. In 2012, 93% of the 9-1-1 calls from deactivated wireless phones were inappropriate calls, including misdials, hang-ups, or harassing calls. To help solve this problem, please do not give your old wireless phones to children to play with.

Please use 9-1-1 responsibly. Call only if you need an emergency response from police, fire, or medics.
For non-emergencies, call your local police or fire department or other appropriate agency.


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