Calling 911 – What To Expect: Part 2

I talked in a previous post about the first thing we want to know when you are calling 911 – WHERE ARE YOU?

Now we have the next most important question when you are calling 911 -WHAT IS YOUR EMERGENCY?

And that is exactly how I will ask you the question – “What is your emergency?” I want to know if you need police, fire, or medical help. So tell me, briefly, what you need. It’s helpful for me if you “cut to the chase” – seconds count, and I am not a mind reader. Something like, “My husband has fallen, and he broke his leg.” That gives me a good idea of what you’re dealing with and the type of help you need.

Also, when I am entering the information for the medics and/or law enforcement responders, I start with what we call the “chief complaint” on the first line.  They like it that way.  It gives them a snapshot of the emergency.  Kinda like a headline in a newspaper.  Then I fill in the details as you and I continue our conversation.

I ask a lot of questions, and I ask them in a certain order, because that ‘s what is most helpful for the medics and/or law enforcement responders.  We have a list of the “Six W’s” that we go through:  Where, What, When, Who, Why and Weapons.  And we go pretty much in that order, except that sometimes the “weapons” questions gets asked right after the “who” question – for officer safety reasons, and for your safety.  More on that in a later post.

We think of it as an upside down triangle; the most important info at the top, then tapering down to the details – “painting the picture,” if you will.

I am typing while I am talking to you – dispatchers and call takers are ninja multi-taskers – so don’t think my asking questions is slowing down the response.  Often, I have the call in and dispatched as soon as I know the location and “chief complaint” – so don’t be yelling at me to hurry up and get them to your location.  Chances are, they are already on their way!

So, to repeat – don’t blather, and ramble.  I know it’s difficult, but resist the urge to get every piece of information out there all at once.  The best thing you can do when you are calling 911 is listen carefully to the questions you are asked, and try to answer them calmly and quickly.  That saves time for both of us, and gets help to you much more quickly.  And that’s a goal that both of us can agree on.  🙂



Calling 911 – Part 1



3 thoughts on “Calling 911 – What To Expect: Part 2

  1. Hi!! Just saw your blog online and read up on your adventure becoming a dispatcher. I am trying to get hired on here in Utah and it’s a 5 step process. I completed Part 2 yesterday and I think I did good. We shall see….
    My question, though, is about the oral interview. If you don’t mind me asking…??
    I’m worried I’ll be so nervous that I’ll blow it, if I even make it that far. They always ask what your weaknesses are. I won’t lie, but I don’t want to say something stupid. Any advice? Also, any other pointers would be so much appreciated. I have wanted this job for ten years! But I’m a mom and I had to wait until my kids were old enough that the crazy shifts wouldn’t be an issue.
    Anyway, thanks for posting your blog and any response I get I’ll be grateful for.


    1. First of all, don’t be nervous! I know that is easy for me to say, but I was really nervous about the oral interview portion, too. And it turned out to not be so bad; truly, everyone there wants to see you succeed. I can’t say for sure what your interview will be like, I can only tell you from my own experience. We actually had two oral interviews; in both of them they were just trying to learn about the applicants and see how they would fit with the job. They may give you a scenario and ask how you would handle the situation, whether it’s with a co-worker or with a caller. Just be honest, and don’t try to give the “right” answer. They don’t expect you to know how to handle every situation, because you haven’t been trained yet. Just try to relax and go with your instincts. As a mom, I am sure you have some good, real-world experience to bring to the job!
      Just remember, there are no “right” answers, as much as we try to search for them. Just be honest. Being “train-able” is important, and you have to be able accept feedback and learn from mistakes. Multi-tasking is a key skill, as is patience.
      I searched online for articles and site about how to become a 911 dispatcher, what to do in an interview, etc. To be honest, I really didn’t find much out there beyond the basic “how to prepare for an interview” articles. But one site that WAS helpful was . Among other things, they have a library of recorded 911 calls. There are also lots of links and good info to browse through.
      I hope this helps!

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