Police operators are trained to handle a variety of calls and emergencies. Although they are assisted by some technology, there are essential things the public can do when calling 911:
1. GIVE AN ADDRESS – The location of the emergency is the first and most important thing operators need. Give the operator the address as specifically as possible, and the borough. If you don’t know the exact street address, providing the street name, nearby cross streets and landmark or highways can go a long way in helping speed help to where it is needed. If you don’t know where you are and are able to, visually scan and describe your surroundings.
2. ANSWER QUESTIONS – Call takers and dispatchers will ask you for more information, so they can properly notify responding officers and necessary authorities, or in some cases provide you with potentially life-saving instructions – for example; how to administer CPR. You may be asked to repeat some information to EMS or Fire Department personnel. It doesn’t delay help that is already on the way.
3. REMAIN CALM – Try to remain calm and provide as much detailed information as possible. The calmer you are, the clearer you can be, the better operators and responders can hear and help you.
4. DESCRIBE THE EMERGENCY – Are your or is someone else hurt? How? Whether you need medical attention, police response, or other emergency assistance, explaining the nature and severity of injuries can be critical – is the person conscious? Choking? Bleeding? Describe what is happening to the best of your ability, or ask someone else to, and leave the line open if you cannot speak.
5. DESCRIBE PERPETRATORS – If you have witnessed a crime or been victimized, get to safety first. As soon as you can, call 911. Describe if there is a suspect or suspects, whether weapons are involved; what the perpetrators look like, including race/approximate age/height/weight/clothing type and color; where they are or how they fled, and in what direction. If they were in a vehicle, what make/model or color and size? Even partial descriptions and license plate numbers can be helpful.
6. KEEP PHONES OPEN – Tell operators the number from which you are calling. Use a landline when possible, and if calling from a cell phone, do your best to leave it on.
7. FOREIGN LANGUAGE ASSISTANCE – Foreign language assistance is available, in more than 140 different languages. Callers can be connected to Spanish-speaking operators, or to other live translators via phone.
8. USE 311 – 911 is for emergencies only. Use 311 to request information, or to report conditions or problems that do not pose an immediate harm to you or others.
9. INCREASE AWARENESS – In a safe and supportive manner, train children how and when to call 911. Also, know what precinct you live in – a list of NYPD precincts and police service areas which cover public housing is available online via nyc.gov/nypd – see Precincts for a directory of locations and phone numbers.
10. EVERY CALL MATTERS – All calls are important! including false alarms and prank calls, which take operators away from citizens whose lives may be in danger. Pranks are punishable by law. Avoid accidentally dialing 911 – lock and secure your phone when ifs not in use to prevent’pocket/purse dial.
Operators are standing by! Take care and be safe.