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9-1-1 FAQ

When should I use 9-1-1?

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about 9-1-1 is when to use it. It is not meant to be used to contact the Police Department about routine matters. 9-1-1 is solely used to report emergencies. An emergency is when IMMEDIATE Police, Fire Department, or Paramedic assistance is necessary to protect life or property.

  • To report a fire
  • To save a life
  • To stop a crime in progress or report one that has just occurred

Call Non-Emergency (916) 808-5471: 

  • When a crime has already occurred and the offenders are no longer on scene
  • For nuisance calls (e.g., barking dogs; landscape and construction noise)
  • To obtain information from the Police Department
  • To speak with an officer
  • For non-emergency situations

Can I Text-to-9-1-1?

Yes! All Sacramento County 9-1-1 Public Safety Dispatch Centers are equipped to receive and respond to mobile phone Text-to-9-1-1 messages from our citizens. Even where Text-to-9-1-1 is available, if you can make a voice call to 9-1-1, please call instead of texting

“Call if you can – text if you can’t.”

Individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing members of the community, or those in a situation where it is too dangerous to dial 9-1-1, will have another option to call for help in an emergency, Text-to-9-1-1. Examples include not only the hard of hearing, but also when a crime is in progress, the caller is facing domestic abuse, the caller is injured and cannot speak, or other scenarios. For more information, please see our Text-to-9-1-1 FAQs (PDF 282 KB).

What happens when I call 9-1-1 accidentally and hang up?

The dispatcher will try to call you back. If the dispatcher reaches a child on the phone, he/she will ask to speak to an adult. An officer will be dispatched to the residence if no adult can be reached. If no one answers, an officer will be dispatched.

How do you know my address and phone number when I call from a landline phone?

We have what is called "E911" or enhanced 9-1-1 capabilities for incoming landline calls at our Communications Center through a link to local telephone company computers. When we answer the 9-1-1 line, a computer display shows the billing name, address, and number of the telephone on the other end. Even though our display will show the landline information, we may verbally confirm and verify the address. Many people call from a neighbor's house and we don't want to waste time sending help to the wrong address.

Why do you ask so many questions when I call 9-1-1?

We ask questions pertaining to the location of an incident and descriptions of vehicles and people involved. Often we ask for descriptions of the victim's clothing as well as the suspect's so responding officers know who to look for on scene.  We also need to know if a crime is still occurring or has occurred some time ago.  This alerts officers to whether the suspects may still be near the crime scene, or if they may need to search the area for them.

Why can't you send help instead of keeping me on the phone?

In an emergency, you are likely to be upset or even frantic. Remember, while you are speaking to the dispatcher, help is being dispatched, and may already be en route to your location. Sometimes the dispatcher will keep you on the phone to calm you until help arrives. They often advise on how to aid victims until help arrives. The best thing you can do is stay on the phone with the dispatcher and do as advised. If you hang up before all necessary information is relayed, you may delay the arrival of help!

Why do you ask me the same questions repeatedly?

The dispatcher strives to be as efficient and quick as possible. They sometimes repeat questions when a caller is too frantic to be understood. We understand that when a crisis occurs, it is human nature to get upset, but when callers scream, cry, or curse, and dispatchers can't get the necessary information, desperately needed help is delayed. Try to speak clearly and answer questions completely.

Can you tell my address when I call 9-1-1 from my cellular phone?  

All cellular telephones manufactured after 2001 are equipped with the ability to identify the location of where the cellular telephone call was placed. Understand there could be a delay in obtaining the specific latitude and longitude coordinates, due to the wireless signal and latency in the wireless system. The dispatcher will still ask you to confirm your location when on the line.