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If Calling 911 Is So Easy, Why Are People Doing It Wrong?

Flickr Photo/nadbasher

A new public service announcement by the state’s Emergency Management Division urges you to always “know your location” just in case you have to call 911. Emergency dispatchers say they often get calls from people who can’t describe where they are or even how to get there. With 70 percent of 911 calls coming from cell phones, it’s much harder for operators to pinpoint a specific location.

Ross Reynolds talked with the program manager for King County's Enhanced 911 Office, Marlys Davis, to get the 411 on calling 911.

Here are some dos and don'ts.


  1. Know your location! Keep track of landmarks and cross streets.
  2. Stay calm, be patient and try to speak clearly. Emergency dispatchers are trained to determine the best course of action based on your information.
  3. If you accidentally dial 911, answer the phone when the operator calls you back. They need to know it’s not an emergency.
  4. Only dial 911 if you need immediate assistance from medical, fire department or law enforcement officials.


  1. Don't call 911 for power outages or minor earthquakes. You can find the non-emergency number that you need to call here.
  2. Don't call 911 for a taxi cab!