Sheriff Department

911 Communications Center

For Citizens

What should I expect when I call 911?

When a citizen calls 911 for a police, fire, or medical emergency, it is very stressful for the caller. Our operators are trained to guide citizens to make it less stressful and to elicit the needed information in an efficient manner. Questions that call takers ask may seem strange and invasive. The questions are not intended to invade a person's privacy. Citizen and emergency responder safety is the number one priority. To ensure that officers are able to get to a scene and render it safe depends on the information that they received from the caller.

Here are some examples of questions a caller may be asked when reporting an incident:

  • Kent County 911, WHERE is your emergency?
    Citizens call 911 in different ways. Calls come into the center from landlines, cell phones, over the internet (VOIP), or from a telecommunication device for the deaf (TDD). Landlines are optimal for fast location information because each landline is registered with the phone company. Upon receiving a call, operators are given the name, address, and phone number for the caller. 911 calls from VOIP line have the same immediate information, but may not be accurate. Landline information is automatically updated by the phone company, VOIP information needs to be updated by the user. If a user forgets to update, operators will not receive correct information. Enhanced 911 requires cell phone carriers to place GPS receivers in phones in order to deliver more specific latitude and longitude location information, which is accurate within 50-300 meters. However, sometimes, operators are still not able to get a cell phone location. Regardless of how a citizen calls for help, the operator must verify the location information and phone number.
  • WHAT is your emergency?
    Call prioritization is based on the type of call, whether it is in progress, just occurred, or if it occurred earlier in the day. An emergency is an immediate threat to human life or property. Calls that involve weapons or a medical emergency are given the highest priority. The operator will guide the caller through the sequence of events. It is important for the caller to stay calm and assist the call taker. When answering questions, it's important to be truthful and give facts. Over dramatization of an event in an attempt to receive a faster response, for example, saying there is a weapon where there is none, puts emergency responders and the general public at risk.
  • Are there any WEAPONS?
    The call taker will ask if there are any weapons involved on certain calls, such as assaults and domestic situations. It is understood that some callers may not be familiar with firearms. The caller should answer to the best of their ability. Questions may include whether the gun is a pistol (a gun that can be held in one hand) or a long gun (a rifle or shotgun), and the color, make, and model. If there is an edged weapon involved, the call taker will ask for more specifics, such as, if it is a kitchen knife or a machete.
  • WHEN did the emergency occur?
    The call taker will ask for a time frame for an event to better prioritize response. An assault that is presently occurring will get a higher priority than an assault that happened three hours ago. In cases involving a suspect who has left the scene, knowing the time frame helps responders calculate how long a suspect may have had to get away.
  • WHO is involved?
    The call taker will ask the caller information on the person(s) involved. This will include name, race and sex, date of birth or age. The call taker will ask for a physical description. This may include height, weight (skinny or heavy set), hair color, and eye color. A clothing description is helpful to responding officers. For the call taker, a head to toe description helps develop a complete mental picture. This may include head wear, glasses, coat, shirt, pants, and shoes. If a call involves a vehicle, the operator will ask for a description. This may include color (solid or two-tone), make, model, style (2 door, 4 door, SUV, hatchback), and any distinguishing marks (cracked windshield, large scratch on the hood).
  • WHY is this happening?
    Background information on the people involved in a situation is helpful to an officer. A call taker may ask whether the person(s) involved have been drinking or doing drugs and about mental status. The call taker may also ask if the person is on or off any medication. Call takers are not trying to invade a person's privacy. Knowing the mental and medical status of an individual keeps responding officers and medical personnel safe.
  • Medical Emergencies
    When a citizen calls 911 for a medical emergency, the call taker will verify the address and telephone number for the caller. The caller will be asked about the patient's primary medical complaint. The caller will then be connected to the area ambulance unless otherwise specified by the caller, who may have an existing contract with another ambulance company. The ambulance company will ask the caller a series of questions which will help them assign a priority to the call. Kent County Emergency Medical Services (KCEMS) dictates how calls for medical service are handled within the county. Depending on the priority level assigned, fire or department of public safety personnel may accompany an ambulance.