WHEN DO I DIAL 9-1-1?
You should call 9-1-1 for these police, fire, and medical emergencies:
* Crimes in progress or recently occurring
* Suspicious Activity/Person/Vehicle in the area
* Fights, disturbances, riots
* Traffic accidents (property damage or personal injury)
* All fires (structures/buildings, vehicles, trash, brush/grass etc.)
* Carbon Monoxide Detector activation
* Any medical emergency
WHAT INFORMATION DOES THE DISPATCHER NEED?
When you call 911, tell the dispatcher the following information. Be prepared for the dispatcher to ask questions to clarify your statements.
*The exact location of the incident or as much information about the location as possible.
*The nature of the emergency ("my house is on fire", "my neighbor collapsed and isn’t breathing", "someone is in my backyard", etc.)
*How many people are injured, if any.
*A brief statement explaining the incident, if needed.
*Conditions which could make the situation unsafe for responders or bystanders. (Weapons involved, chemical releases, disabled vehicles, animals)
Officers require certain information in order to respond effectively to a location to handle a possible criminal matter and dispatchers have been trained to ask the necessary questions. Dispatchers are required to ask questions to clarify information on statements given. Callers sometimes believe the questions are "a waste of their time" and become irate.
Dispatchers do not know the personal situations of each resident and are not aware of the floor plan of each house in Sarpy County. The more complete the information given, the more effective the response.
If you are not in a position to give full answers to the call-taker (the suspect is nearby), stay on the phone (if safe) and the dispatcher will ask you questions that can be answered "yes" or "no" or by code words supplied to you by the call-taker.
If you find a situation in which it is not safe for you to be on the phone (fight, prowler, etc) dial 9-1-1 and set the phone down. The dispatcher is listening for background noise and will continue to monitor the call while another dispatcher is sending law enforcement and/or fire and rescue personnel.
WHAT OTHER QUESTIONS WILL I BE ASKED?
Be prepared to describe the persons involved in the incident. This includes their race, sex, age, height and weight, color of hair, description of clothing, and any other characteristics (hat, glasses, facial hair, etc)
Be prepared to describe any vehicles involved. This includes the color, year, make, model and type of vehicle (4-door sedan, station wagon, pickup, sport utility vehicle, etc.) If the vehicle is moving, the dispatcher will need to know the last known direction of travel.
If the call is a medical emergency, the call-taker will be using a set of Emergency Medical Dispatch Protocol cards. These cards list questions to ask and instructions to give. Listen to these instructions carefully and do not be afraid to ask the dispatcher to repeat something if it is unclear.
Listen to the dispatcher’s instructions for assistance if you are in danger yourself. The dispatcher may tell you to leave the building, secure yourself in a room or take other action to protect yourself.
HOW DO I KNOW WHICH AGENCY WILL ANSWER MY CALL?
When you dial 9-1-1 from a standard phone (not cellular phone), the call will be routed to the PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) for the location of that call. When you dial 9-1-1 from a location within Sarpy County (excluding Offutt Air Force Base), those calls will always come to the Sarpy County 9-1-1 Center. The phone instantly sends a signal to a database in Boulder, Colorado that provides the subscriber’s name, address, and phone number on a screen for our operators. This process takes approximately 3 seconds. Even though this information is provided to the Communications Center, it is necessary for the dispatchers to ask you to confirm your name, address, and phone number.
IS MY CALL TO 9-1-1 CONFIDENTIAL?
Callers to 911 are not required to give their name/address/phone number to the dispatcher. You will never be forced to give your personal information. However, please keep in mind there may be times when officers/dispatchers require additional information from you after the call is disconnected (ex: more specific information to identify a location or update information that will affect an officer’s response). This is the main reason you will be asked to provide your name and call-back number. If you choose to remain anonymous, it will not change the officer’s/deputy’s response to your call.
All calls (911 and non-emergency) into the Communications Center are recorded on a type of DVD. These DVDs are held for a set period of time in case they are needed in a later investigation. The Center does not release tapes to the public without a court order.
HOW ARE 9-1-1 CALLS PRIORITIZED?
When your call is received, the information is relayed to the appropriate dispatcher with a priority attached. All calls are prioritized to maximize the safety of the responders and the citizens. Calls received earlier may need to be held in order to have officers/deputies respond to life-threatening incidents. Calls with a higher priority are usually in progress. Some examples of these are: burglaries or robberies in progress, disturbances or domestic violence incidents, use of weapon calls, fire/rescue calls, etc.
WHAT IF I ACCIDENTALLY MISDIAL AND REACH THE 9-1-1 CENTER?
DO NOT hang up. Instead, inform the dispatcher that you have reached the wrong number. If you do hang up, the Communications Center will call back the number to make sure everything is alright. If there is no answer or a busy signal, a law enforcement officer will be dispatched. This will needlessly take resources away from genuine emergencies.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO TELL WHERE THE INCIDENT OCCURRED INSTEAD OF WHERE I’M CALLING FROM?
As stated above, a 9-1-1 Center can only dispatch agencies belonging to its jurisdiction. Where you are calling from could be in one jurisdiction, and the location in which an incident occurred could be another. The Sarpy County Communications Center can only dispatch for the law and/or fire and rescue departments we serve.
For example, if you are shopping at the Oak View Mall in Omaha and, upon returning to the parking lot, discover that someone had "keyed" your vehicle. Instead of calling the police at that time, you return to your residence in Papillion, and call 9-1-1 to report the damage. The dispatcher answering the phone will ask where your vehicle was when the damage occurred. When you state "the Oak View Mall", the dispatcher will have to transfer your call to the Omaha Police Department, because Omaha Police is not an agency dispatched out of the Sarpy County Center. In this instance, you may have to return to the Omaha city limits to meet with the officer to make a report.
If the incident occurs within Papillion, LaVista, or Bellevue, and you are calling from a location outside of their jurisdictional boundaries, but within Sarpy County, you will be asked to return to an area within the city limits (possibly a Kwik Shop or other convenient store) of where the crime occurred.
CAN I FILE A POLICE REPORT OVER THE PHONE?
None of the agencies within Sarpy County have a Telephone Reporting Bureau. Therefore, in order to file a report, you must meet with a police officer in person.
HOW WILL THE COMMUNICATIONS CENTER BE ABLE TO HANDLE A MAJOR DISASTER?
The answer to this question was put to the test on New Year’s Eve 1999. There were many meetings and much time was spent on preparing for the worst-case scenario. The Communications Center team devised a plan that increased the number of console positions from 6 to 11. There were also 4 Supervisors on duty to answer any questions or relieve dispatchers for a break. The lessons we learned from these preparations will aid the Communications Center, the Police/Sheriff Departments, and the Fire/Rescue Departments in case of a disaster here in Sarpy County.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER A WEAPON?
Potentially, any object could be considered a weapon. Most people, when asked if weapons are involved, immediately think of guns, knives, or baseball bats as weapons. Law Enforcement considers anything a weapon – a lamp, a coffee mug, a vase, etc.
WHAT ABOUT THE GUN I KEEP IN MY HOUSE FOR SECURITY?
On high-priority calls, dispatchers will routinely ask if there are any weapons in the house. If the caller advises there is a gun and/or shotgun in the residence, the dispatcher will ask where the gun is located and advise the responding units of this information. (Ex: in the upstairs bedroom, locked in a cabinet, etc.).
Police Officers/Deputies will not go into a residence in which there is an unsecured weapon. If the caller has the weapon in their immediate possession, the dispatcher will tell the caller to put the weapon(s) away. Law Enforcement personnel will not take the risk of being shot or accidentally shooting a home-owner protecting his/her property if they see a weapon in their hands. Once the weapon is put away, the dispatcher will probably clarify this information once or twice just to make sure there is no danger to the responding units. It is very important to follow all instructions given and answer all questions asked by the dispatcher handling your call.
WHAT SHOULD I TEACH MY CHILD ABOUT 9-1-1?
Many 911 hang-up calls are made by children playing with the telephone. Each time a 911 hang-up call is received, the dispatcher must immediately call back the phone number to determine if there is an emergency. If there is no answer on callback, law enforcement personnel will immediately be dispatched to check the well-being of any persons at the location.
If, on call-back, there is an answer, the dispatcher will question the person (an adult) who answers the phone to determine if an emergency exists. Dispatchers have been trained to "pick up" on any unusual noises or voice inflections to determine if there is a problem at a location without the caller actually advising the dispatcher.
If a child answers the phone on a call-back, the dispatcher will request to speak to an adult to ensure that everything is okay. Some children are too young to understand what we need (give the phone to an adult), so the dispatcher will still send an officer to respond. The phone line is never disconnected. The dispatcher will talk with the child in an attempt to determine if there is a problem with "mommy or daddy" and will stay on the phone with the child until law enforcement personnel arrive.
We ask that adults do not punish children who call 911 and then hang up, but rather explain to them that 911 should only be used in an emergency. If children are punished for dialing 911, it may scare them from using it in the future, whether they have a legitimate emergency or not. Sarpy County Communications also is available to do tours for children (and adults) so they are able to have a better understanding of 911 (call 593-4397). You can also visit our "9-1-1 For Kids" Page on this website!