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When To Call 9-1-1

The 9-1-1 System is a life-saver. In an emergency, it’s the fastest way to get help. But when people call 9-1-1 for non-emergencies, they can tie up phone lines and call-takers and delay response to true emergencies.

Different jurisdictions have different policies for calling 9-1-1, and some larger Emergency Call Centers will take calls for certain non-emergencies. The following are general guidelines. When in doubt, call 9-1-1. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

  • 9-1-1 is for medical, fire and police emergencies. If you need help now, call 9-1-1.
  • Medical: If someone is injured or sick, and their condition may worsen before you can get them to an emergency room, call 9-1-1. If you’re not certain, call 9-1-1 and the call taker can help determine whether you need a paramedic and ambulance, or you should drive the injured person to the emergency room, an urgent care center, or your doctor.
  • Fire: In case of fire, call 9-1-1 first! Don’t try to put out the fire yourself before calling 9-1-1. Trying to fight the fire yourself instead of calling 9-1-1 is not only dangerous, but will delay First Responders in arriving to fight the fire.
  • Police: If a crime or incident is in progress or the cuplrits are still in the area, call 9-1-1. Call the Police or Sheriff Department’s non-emergency number to report crimes that have already occurred and the culprits have left the scene.

    If you have a choice between calling 9-1-1 on a traditional wireline telephone, or on a cellphone or Internet phone, call on the traditional wireline telephone. The call will be more quickly and accurately routed, and the Emergency Call Center will receive more precise location information, more quickly.

    If you call 9-1-1 and the call isn’t answered right away, stay on the line. The call-takers may be assisting other callers, but will answer your call as soon as they can. Your call will be answered sooner than if you hang-up and call again and go to the back of the line of calls to be answered.

    When you call 9-1-1, stay on the line until the call taker tells you to hang up. Even if you call 9-1-1 by accident, remain on the line and tell the call taker that it is not an emergency. Many police and sheriff’s departments have a policy of investigating every “9-1-1 hang-up call” to assure the person didn’t hang up under duress.

    If your cell phone is programmed to dial 9-1-1 when you hold down the “9” key or some other key, lock your phone keypad when you place it in your pocket or purse. Alternatively, contact your service provider for information on how to disable this feature. Emergency Call Centers receive hundreds of accidently dialed 9-1-1 calls every day, when the 9-1-1 speed-dial key is accidently depressed in people’s pockets or purses.

For non-emergency numbers, please consult your local city or county website, your local telephone directory, or our Directory of Colorado Emergency and Non-Emergency Numbers.