Knowing the Right Things to Say on a 911 Call

By: Deon Guillory Email
By: Deon Guillory Email

HARRISONBURG -- Emergencies happen in an instant, and knowing the right things to do can allow help to come faster. Using a cellphone correctly can be the difference between life and death.

The cellphone is a way of life for many people and because of that, more people are hanging up the traditional landline.

Brittnay Bates is a mother of two who doesn't have a landline anymore.

"It's so much cheaper just to do a cellphone and call anywhere. So that's what we do. We don't have a landline anymore."

According to the there are more than 91-million smartphones in the United States. Wireless phones represent more than 70 percent of the 911 calls received by the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Emergency Communications Center. This prompted ECC leaders to start a campaign called “Help Us Find You.”

"Just educating the public on the basics of what we need to know, when you're calling in emergency situations," said Chad Siver, a supervisor at the Harrisonburg/Rockingham ECC.

Siver says there is a lot that most people don't know about making emergency phone calls.

“It's a misconception that, if you call from your cellphone that we know exactly where you are."

Calling 911 from a cellphone does not give emergency responders all the information they need. From a landline, they get your exact address, but from a wireless phone, all they get is the latitude and longitude. Knowing your location in this instance is very important.

"It all comes down to simply planning and training."

At an event at the Valley Mall, ECC workers explained the truth about calling 911 from a wireless phone.

They recommended for callers to know their surroundings, be prepared to give the exact location where help is needed, remain calm and answer all of the questions asked by the call taker. Help will be sent to the location the caller provides.

Bates hasn't taught her two little boys a lot about 911, but her oldest son knows what it's for.

"He knows how to dial it. He knows how to get it on my cellphone and everything, but we haven't practiced it or anything like that," said Bates.

At an annual “Touch a Truck” event, kids learned how to use 911 in an emergency.

Taysia, a 7 year old at the event, said she didn't know how to use 911, but she knew one of the purposes of making the call.

“To call the police," said Taysia.

Another child at the event, 5-year-old Dimytri, said he knew how to use 911, what it's for and what information he needed to tell ECC operators.

"As much training as we do, I feel as if, parents need to educate their kids. Not only one time, but continuous training on phones," said Siver.

Bates agreed teaching her boys about 911 is important.

"'Cause you hear stories about kids who do that and save their parent's life or something happens at the babysitter's and they have to dial 911, so yes, I definitely think it's important, but also teaching them responsibility with how to do it," said Bates.

Even without service, a person can still dial 911 from a cellphone. That caller just needs to be aware of his or her surroundings so he or she can give the call taker an accurate location. is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules:

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