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Life in the United States

Emergency Phone Number: 911

If this an immediate emergency, dial 9-1-1 on your phone right now.

Below are common questions about using 9-1-1 in emergency situations.  If you need to speak with police, but the matter is not urgent, call the non-emergency lines listed for your specific city.  If there is any doubt as to whether or not the situation is an emergency, call 9-1-1 and let the call taker assess the matter.

Milwaukee Police Department (414) 933-4444

Wauwatosa Police Department (414) 471-8430

West Allis Police Department (414) 302-8070

 What is 911?

9-1-1 is the number you call to get help in a police, fire, or medical emergency.  A 9-1-1 call goes over dedicated phone lines to the 9-1-1 answering point closest to the caller, where trained personnel send the emergency help needed.

In some places, you may be able to be connected with Poison Control by calling 9-1-1, but you should check with local officials in your area to make sure.

Enhanced 9-1-1, or E9-1-1, is a system which automatically displays the caller's phone number and address. The 9-1-1 call taker will typically ask the caller to verify the information, which appears on his or her computer screen. In most areas, phone number and location information is not yet available for 9-1-1 calls made from a cellular/wireless phone.

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 When should I use 911?

9-1-1 is only to be used in emergency situations. An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police/sheriff, the fire department, or an ambulance. If you are ever in doubt of whether a situation is an emergency you should call 9-1-1. It's better to be safe and let the 9-1-1 call taker determine if you need emergency assistance.

If you call 9-1-1 by mistake, do not hang up. Tell the call taker what happened so they know there really isn't an emergency.

Do not call 9-1-1:

  • for information
  • for directory assistance
  • when you're bored and just want to talk
  • for paying tickets
  • for your pet
  • as a prank/joke (in most states, this is illegal)
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 How do I make a 911 call?
  • Dial 9-1-1 on your phone in an emergency (the call is free).  You can use any kind of phone: push button, rotary, cellular/wireless, cordless, or pay phone. (With some pay phones, you may need coins to get a dial tone; with many wireless phones, Enhanced 9-1-1 does not yet work.)
  • Stay calm and state your emergency.
  • Speak loudly and clearly. Give the 9-1-1 call taker your name, phone number, and the address where help is needed.
  • Answer the call taker's questions. Stay on the telephone if it's safe to do so, and don't hang up until the call taker tells you to.
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 What if I do not speak English?

When necessary, a 9-1-1 call taker can add an interpreter from an outside service to the line. You may hear a short conversation in English and some clicking sounds as the interpreter is added to the line.

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 What if I am deaf or hearing/speech impaired?

Communications centers that answer 9-1-1 calls have special text telephones for responding to 9-1-1 calls from deaf or hearing/speech impaired callers.

If a caller uses a TTY/TDD, the caller should:

  • Stay calm, place the phone receiver in the TTY, dial 9-1-1.
  • After the call is answered, press the TTY keys several times. This may help shorten the time necessary to respond to the call.
  • Give the call taker time to connect their TTY. If necessary, press the TTY keys again. The 9-1-1 call taker should answer and type "GA" for Go Ahead.
  • Tell what is needed-police, fire department, or ambulance. Give your name, phone number and the address where help is needed.
  • Stay on the telephone if it is safe. Answer the call taker's questions.

If a deaf or hearing/speech impaired caller doesn't have a TTY/TDD, the caller should call 9-1-1 and don't hang up. Not hanging up leaves the line open. With most 9-1-1 calls, the caller's address is displayed on the call taker's screen and help will be sent.

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Nena 9-1-1 Q&A Information provided in part by the North Central Texas Council of Governments, Tarrant County 9-1-1 District and Denco Area 9-1-1 District.
© 2015 Medical College of Wisconsin
Page Updated 09/12/2013