What to say when calling 911

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911 call centers take hundreds of emergency calls a day, and operators say how you answer their questions could save a life.

Huntsville-Madison County 911 Operator, Mary Gomes, says to stay calm and listen. Answering their questions in the order they ask them will result in a quicker response time.

The first question you will have to answer if you call 9-1-1 is your location. Operators say in order to send help as soon as possible, they have to know where you are.

“We have to have the address to get it started. Even if you don’t know the exact address, give us the intersection, a business that you’re nearby, a mile marker, anything like that is helpful,” said Gomes.

The second question they will ask is what happened. There are seven agencies in the Huntsville-Madison County 911 Center. Answering what happened tells the operator who to send.

Call takers say to speak clearly when on the phone.

“If we don’t understand something, we’re going to ask you to repeat it again. We’re not trying to frustrate you when you call in, so just provide the information requested by the operator,” said Gomes.

A common misconception is that staying on the phone is slowing the response down, but it’s not true. As they ask questions, they pass the information on to the agencies in the field that will respond.

Once you know help is on the way, you may want to hang up, but operators say to stay on the phone until they tell you goodbye.

If you accidentally call 9-1-1, don’t hang up right away. Make sure you tell them it was an accident so they know not to respond.

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