FAQ

What information will I need to provide when I call 911?

The address/location of where the responders are needed, what the problem is and why help is needed, your name, and other details the call taker may ask for, including license plate numbers and person or vehicle descriptions.

Remember…

  • Stay calm.
  • Answer questions concisely, accurately and coherently.
  • Help is being dispatched while you are on the line.
  • The call taker may keep you on the line and continue asking questions or providing lifesaving instructions until help arrives.
  • Let the call taker guide the conversation.
  • Know where you are and/or what is nearby.
  • You cannot send a text or video message to 911 or the non-emergency number.

Why am I asked so many questions when I call?

The call takers ask questions based on protocols that help determine what’s wrong and how many responders need to go. The questions that are asked are to protect the public and the first responders.  While they are questioning you, they are also entering the information for the dispatcher who is actually the one sending the first responders to you. By answering questions concerning medical conditions or suspect information, you may be able to provide the information needed to get the best response and outcome possible.

In the case of medical calls, call takers ask very specific questions that allow them to provide pre-arrival instructions, like talking you through CPR, which may help save a life until the first responders arrive.

Is help sent after I hang up?

Staying on the line will NOT delay help from arriving.  Help is being dispatched while call takers are gathering more information.  If possible, do not hang up with 911 until told to do so.

Are there any times I should not call 911?

Sometimes it may be more appropriate to call the non-emergency number, (850) 606-5800. There are also other available resources that may be more appropriate. For example:

  • Tune to the local news media for updates on weather and road conditions
  • Report power outages to your utility provider.
  • Find a business phone number online or by calling 411.

What if I accidentally dial 911?

If you dial 911, even by accident, DO NOT HANG UP.  A call taker needs to verify your information and make sure no emergency assistance is needed.  Callback information is received when you dial 911.  If you hang up the call taker must then call you back to determine why you called which could further delay the answering of other emergency calls.  If you do not answer on the call back emergency responders have to be sent to the address.  This is true even if the call is not immediately answered or if assistance is no longer needed.

Can I send a text or video message to 911?

No. Like most 911 centers, the CDA cannot receive text, photo or video messages via 911 or the non-emergency number at this time.

The 911 system was built in the 1970s and was designed to handle only landline telephone service. However, a goal of “Next Generation 911,” or NG911, is to have a 911 system that enables the transmission of voice, text, video or data from different types of communication devices to 911 centers and to emergency responders.  Currently, NG911 is in its early stages of planning. NENA (National Emergency Number Association) is working on NG911 projects and the state of Florida has an Enhanced 911 (E911) Advisory Committee that is working on a deployment plan.

If I call 911 from my cell phone, do you know where I’m at? What if I’m biking or out in the forest?

When you call from a cell phone, the information the call taker sees is limited. Unlike most landlines, a cell phone cannot provide exact location/address information. It is important for you to know where you are at all times in case of emergency so you can describe your location as precisely as possible – including cross streets, mile markers or landmarks.  Cellular service may not be available in some areas or in the forests. If service is available, a 911 call for help will be picked up by the nearest cellular tower in the most direct line of sight to your location. Call takers will not know your exact location unless you tell them only the tower you are nearest. Be prepared to provide your location – including trailhead, landmarks, or point of entrance to the forest.

Can I call 911 from my cell phone?

Yes, although wireless calls can present challenges for 911 centers and callers. With cell phones, your location is not automatically displayed like it is on traditional phones. If you are not familiar with your exact location, it is crucial that you give as much information about your surroundings as possible.

When should I call 911?

911 is intended for emergencies. If the situation seems urgent and has the potential to become dangerous, call 911. If you are unsure if your situation is an emergency, dial 911. All other calls should be directed to our non-emergency number at 850-606-5800.

What types of incidents should be reported to 911?

Any incident that threatens health, life or property should be reported to 911. Examples include: crimes that are in progress as well as fires or medical problems requiring emergency assistance.

What types of things should not be reported to 911?

Any call that is not emergent in nature should be handled on our non emergency line 606-5800. Examples include: lost pets, late reports such as your car being broken into or your house being vandalized overnight. If you are ever unsure, CALL 911.

When should I use the non-emergency number (850) 606-5800?

The non-emergency number is available 24-hours a day and can be used when calling 911 may not be appropriate. 

Examples of when you should call the non-emergency number:

  • Delayed calls where no suspects are on scene and there is no danger to the caller.
  • Delayed calls where no suspects are on scene and there is no danger to the caller.
  • Your house or car was broken into, but you did not witness the incident
  • You need to add additional items to your burglary report, which you previously reported
  • Your car or bicycle was stolen sometime during the day/night.

What if I’m not sure whether my situation is an emergency or not?

If you’re not sure, call 911.  Our call takers are trained to determine the severity of situations and send appropriate help.

If I call 911, what will they ask me?

  • What is the address of the emergency? If you don’t know the actual address, tell the dispatcher and then give cross streets, or provide nearby landmarks and business names, or look at house numbers in the area. If you are calling from inside a home or business, look on a piece of mail. When asked for a location, we need you to be specific.
  • What is the phone number you’re calling from? This is necessary in case we are disconnected or need to call you back.
  • What is the problem? Tell us exactly what happened. Be as concise as possible. Tell us what the problem is now, not what led up to the problem.

How long do most 911 calls last?

The length of a 911 varies based on the severity and circumstances involved with each situation.

What should I do if I have a complaint/compliment about the way my call was handled?

Complaints and compliments can be handled two ways. You can either call the non-emergency number and ask to speak to the supervisor on duty, or you can click on the following link to provide comments online

What if something happens to me and I can’t speak? How can 911 help me?

When you dial 911 from a traditional landline telephone, one that is wired into a house or other building, the location from which you are calling is displayed on a computer screen.  If you cannot speak, either because of a communications impairment, illness or crime in progress, a law enforcement officer will be sent to your location to check for any trouble.  If you are ill or being kept from talking by an intruder, leave the telephone off the hook.  Any noise that we can hear will help us determine the most appropriate response.  We will stay on the line until the responders arrive on scene.

What are the disadvantages to having home phone service through an internet or cellular provider?

  • Needs Electric Power - During a power outage a regular phone is kept in service by the current supplied through the phone line (cordless phones being the exception).  This is not possible with Internet phones, so when the power goes out, there is no VoIP phone service.
  • Needs Internet Connectivity – If your internet goes out, your phone will not work
  • Limited Emergency Calls - Another major concern involves emergency 911 calls.  With traditional phone equipment, your phone number is attached to your address and maintained by the phone company.  With a VoIP phone service it is the responsibility of the customer to update their address anytime they move.  If the customer moves and does not update their address responders could be directed to the wrong location.
  • Cellular provided home phones do not have your address attached to your phone number.

I have a hearing impairment and cannot communicate over a regular telephone line. What should I do if I need help?

Every dispatcher at the CDA has been trained on the proper use of a TDD.  You can utilize the TDD phone number 850-606-5805 or use the Florida Relay Service.  If it is an emergency dial 911.  Our phone system is setup to automatically detect TDD calls.

What if the caller does not speak English?

CDA employees can get a translator on the line within seconds once the language spoken is identified. Dispatchers use a service called “Language Line”. The translator will remain on the line throughout the call to relay information between the caller and the 911 operator.

How do I become a 911 dispatcher?

Click here to get more information on this exciting, challenging but stress filled career.

What kind of training do 911 operators receive?

Click here to learn about the CDAs extensive training program.