Frequently Asked Questions - 9-1-1

General questions about using 9-1-1, when to call, teaching children, what to expect if you call, etc.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) also called Internet, digital, broadband or cable phone service is a rapidly growing alternative to traditional phone service. Its popularity is fueled primarily by low prices, new features and the consumer's ability to choose a phone number from nearly anywhere in the country (and sometimes, other countries). Many industry experts anticipate VoIP's growth will outpace the growth seen by the wireless industry in the last decade.

VoIP may look and appear to work like a traditional phone, but it connects to the internet not a telephone line. There are several critical factors to consider regarding the impact of this service on your ability to call 9-1-1 in an emergency. While VoIP is an attractive option, it is important for consumers to understand the potential limitations the technology has with respect to accessing 9-1-1.

Tips for Internet/Digital Phone Users (VoIP)

  • Check your service provider's website for emergency calling features.
  • When calling 9-1-1, give your location, and call back number.
  • Call back if you get disconnected.
  • If you travel with your VoIP adapter, your call may not reach the correct 9-1-1 center. Call from another phone.
  • Verify that you can access 9-1-1 with your phone. Check your service provider's Web site for emergency calling features.
  • Be sure to keep your registered location current with your VoIP provider. This is very important if you move!
  • If the power is out, your VoIP service may be out too. Consider purchasing a back-up power supply.
  • If you travel with your VoIP adapter, be sure to update your registered location with your service provider. The time it takes to process the update can vary considerably. Therefore, when traveling, if you need 9-1-1 service, use another phone.
  • Inform children, babysitters, and visitors about your VoIP service.
  • Post your address and call back phone number near your phone.
  • It is a good idea to know what police, fire or sheriff's department is responsible for your 9-1-1 call and have their phone number on hand to provide to the call taker.
  • Consider keeping a land line phone for accessing 9-1-1 emergency services.
  • Burglar alarms, fax machines, satellite TV, and DVRs often rely on analog modems. Check with your VoIP provider to determine if their service supports analog modems. 
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All workstations in the Communications Center are equipped with Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD) that allows typed (text) communication with people who are hearing and/or speech impaired. If a caller does not speak English, our center has access to Language Line Services that provide 24hr/day over-the-phone interpretation of over 175 different languages. The process of getting an interpreter on the phone with the caller is generally less than one minute.

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Yes. Calls to 9-1-1 from payphones are provided at no charge.

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No. At this time, you are not able to send a text message to 9-1-1.

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NO, please do not program 9-1-1 or use the auto 9-1-1 feature on your cell phone. There are numerous accidental calls to 9-1-1 from cell phones that have this feature, especially when the cell phone inadvertently presses against another object and activates the programmed call. In most cases, cell phone owners have no idea their phone has called 9-1-1. Help reduce accidental calls to 9-1-1 by only calling when you have a life-threatening emergency.

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It is usually best to pull over when calling 9-1-1, as there is less chance of the cell phone signal being dropped in the middle of the call. Also, any emergency instructions that need to be carried out can best be done while you're stopped. Remember, it is best to be in one place so help can get to you, instead of trying to meet them somewhere. If you cannot safely pull over to speak to a 9-1-1 operator, then stay calm, pay attention to the roadway with surrounding vehicles, and follow the call taker's instructions.

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Look for landmarks, large buildings, street signs or paperwork nearby that may contain address information. Think back to the main street or highway you were near when your emergency occurred. If others are around, ask them where you are. Do not solely rely on your cell phone location to tell 9-1-1 where you are!

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Cell phones cannot give your exact location like a traditional phone does. Try to have your address ready, or use landmarks, mile markers and road signs to describe where you are. Cell Phones provide a latitude and longitude location on most calls but it is not always available or close enough to find the emergency. (See Phase II Service)

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Yes! Even if the phone does not have a service plan from a provider you can still call 9-1-1.

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Although the Communications Center typically has this information, we are usually tied up handling other emergency calls and simply don't have the manpower to answer these questions completely. You may call Talladega County EMA (256-761-2125) for road conditions or tune to local news media for school closings.

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The Communications Center does not disregard any calls for service. All legitimate calls are turned over to the agency responsible for service and once this happens, the outcome is out of our control. If you have a concern about how a specific incident was/wasn't handled, you should contact the department that handled the call and speak to an on-duty supervisor.

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Employees at the Consolidated Communications Center are responsible for answering 9-1-1 and non-emergency calls daily. However, there is a clear focus on answering 9-1-1 calls first. With this in mind, citizens should be aware that significant wait times can occur on any non-emergency line at anytime. 

Citizens should not hang up and dial 9-1-1 if you cannot get through on the non-emergency lines. 9-1-1 should only be used when there is a life-threatening emergency. If the call is not an emergency situation, the caller will be asked to hang up and call back on a non-emergency line. 

Non-emergency lines are available to report situations where public safety response is requested. This can include reporting a minor traffic accident with no injuries, when a person discovers their car has been broken into, animal complaints and other non-emergency public safety matters.

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In some offices/businesses the telephone equipment may require you to dial "9" to get an outside line to dial out. This type of system is called a Private Branch Exchange (PBX). A PBX is basically a private telephone system that is connected to the public telephone system. If you happen to dial "9" to get an outside line and "1" for a long distance number, the "1" could accidentally get pressed twice or be held down too long, therefore 9-1-1 is actually dialed.

Some PBX systems also require that you dial "9-9-1-1" in order to dial 9-1-1 for emergency assistance. You should check with the person(s) responsible for maintaining your telephone system to see if dialing "9-9-1-1" is a requirement for your office. If it is, make sure that these instructions are posted in plain view at each phone for employees to see in case they need to call 9-1-1.

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Do not hang up! Remain on the line (even if you are unsure at first if the call went through) and tell the Telecommunicator that the call was a mistake. If you hang up prior to your misdialed 9-1-1 call being answered, the call taker must then send law enforcement and attempt to call you back. This takes up precious time that the call taker could use to answer another call that may be an actual emergency. A common misconception is that you will get "in trouble" for accidentally dialing 9-1-1. This is simply not true! Accidents happen. We understand!

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  • Answer all questions asked by the Telecommunicator.
  • Listen to all instructions provided to you by the Telecommunicator.
  • Speak clearly (so we can understand what you are telling us).
  • Remain calm (difficult to do at times, we understand. But by remaining calm, you will help the Telecommunicator gather valuable information needed by first responders).
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The Telecommunicators answers a 9-1-1 call with the question "9-1-1, where is your emergency?" The address or specific location is the most critical piece of information we can gather. If we do not have a location of the problem, how can we send help?

Public Safety Telecommunicators ask questions based on protocols that help determine what's wrong and how many responders need to go. The questions that are asked are to protect the public and the first responders. Remember, the Public Safety Telecommunicators work on a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system and while they are questioning you, they are also entering the information for a Telecommunicator who is actually the one sending the first responders to you. By answering questions concerning medical conditions or suspect information, you may be able to provide the information needed to get the best response possible.

In the case of medical calls, Public Safety Telecommunicators ask very specific questions that allow them to provide pre-arrival instructions, like talking you through CPR, that may help save a life until the first responders arrive.

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Teaching children the proper use of 9-1-1 is very important. Some of the things you can do as a parent is to cover some these basic pointers:

  • Teach your children
    • their full names, their parents' full names, their home address and phone number with area code.
    • what an emergency is and when to call 9-1-1.
    • that it is against the law to call 9-1-1 as a joke or prank.
    • if they call 9-1-1 by mistake, do not hang-up, they will not be in trouble for making a mistake.
    • to remain calm and answer all questions they're asked.
    • not to be afraid to call 9-1-1 if they need to.
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9-1-1 should only be used when there is a life-threatening emergency. This could be medical, fire or police. If there is any danger to someone's life or situation where the person causing the problem is still around, call 9-1-1. It is best in all medical situations to use 9-1-1.

Use 256-761-1556 when your car has been broken into, an accident without injuries, animal complaints, found property or for general questions.

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It's a prank call when someone calls 9-1-1 for a joke, or calls 9-1-1 and hangs up. Prank calls not only waste time and money, but can also be dangerous. If 9-1-1 lines or Telecommunicators are busy with prank calls, someone with a real emergency may not be able to get the help they need. In most places, it's against the law to make prank 9-1-1 calls.

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Phase II is a requirement of the Federal Communications Commission for wireless phone companies to provide an approximation of the 9-1-1 caller's location in the form of latitude and longitude.

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Phase I is a requirement of the Federal Communications Commission for wireless phone companies to provide the address of the cell tower that processes a 9-1-1 call and the call back number of the cell phone to the Public Safety Answering Point.

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Enhanced 9-1-1, or E9-1-1, is a system which routes an emergency call to the 9-1-1 center closest to the caller, AND automatically displays the caller's phone number and address. The Public Safety Telecommunicator will typically ask the caller to verify the information, which appears on his or her computer screen.

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Nine-one-one is the number most people in the U.S. call to get help in a police, fire or medical emergency. A 9-1-1 call goes over dedicated phone lines to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) and trained personnel then send the emergency help needed. 9-1-1 service is available in all Counties and Cities in Alabama.

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this link will take you to a copy of the new 9-1-1 law that to effect October 1, 2013.

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