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911 FAQ

When should I use 911?

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about 911 is when to use it. It is not meant to be used to contact the Police Department about routine matters. 911 is solely used to report emergencies.

What Is An Emergency? 

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 (916) 808-5471:  (DO NOT CALL 911)

  • 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 still get 911 if I dial the telephone operator?

No. You get connected to a 7-digit emergency line. We do not automatically receive your address or phone number on this line. Not dialing 911 in an emergency slows the process by preventing us from automatic verification of your address. When people call in an emergency, they are often upset, afraid, and not always thinking clearly. As a result they sometimes have trouble reporting the address of the emergency. We cannot get help where it is needed until that address is verified.

What happens when I call 911 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. If the line is busy, the dispatcher will attempt to break through with the help of a phone operator to see if the call was a misdial or there is an emergency requiring response.

Why can't you take my non-emergency call on 911 when we are both on the line already?

We have a limited number of incoming 911 lines for the entire city. One major incident (such as a large fire or major traffic accident) will cause numerous lines to ring.  Those lines can get tied up quickly. If we are taking your non-emergency call on the 911 line, real emergency callers may be forced to wait before we can help them.

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

We have what is called "E911" or enhanced 911 capabilities for incoming landline calls at our Communications Center through a link to local telephone company computers. When we answer the 911 line, a computer display shows the billing name, address, and number of the telephone on the other end.

You already know my address and phone number, so why do you ask me again?

Computers can make mistakes, so we must ask your address as verification. Also, many people call from a neighbor's house and we don't want to waste precious time sending help to the wrong address.

Why do you ask so many questions when I call 911?

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.

What happens when I dial 911 from my cellular phone in the city of Sacramento?

In most cases your 911 call from a cellular phone will be routed through the California Highway Patrol. The CHP dispatcher will confirm the location where help is needed and the nature of the incident in order to transfer to the appropriate Communications Center for law enforcement, fire or medical services. 

Can you tell my address when I call 911 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.

Should I program the 7-digit emergency number into my cellular phone instead of calling 911?

It is recommended to have the 7-digit emergency number – (916) 732-0100 - programmed for quick use on your cell phone. However, if your call is an emergency, please dial 911. The 911 system is an emergency network and the enhanced design of the system makes it possible for dispatchers answering your emergency calls to receive the location of the call and the telephone number of the cellular phone calling 911. This information can be helpful when attempting to verify an emergency and/or locate the caller.