911 FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

When should you call 9-1-1?

  • Life or property are in immediate danger
  • A crime is being committed
  • Emergency medical assistance is needed
  • Smoke or flames are seen or smelled
  • If you are not sure who to call, call 9-1-1 and let us help you

What questions will you be asked?

  • Location of where help is needed
  • What is happening (used to determine if you need police, fire or medical help)
  • Time delay (for example: did it occur 5 minutes ago or 1 week ago)
  • Any weapons involved (if yes, we will ask what type and where they are located)
  • Descriptions of vehicles and people involved
  • The phone number you are calling from
  • Your name
  • During COVID-19 we will also ask if you or anyone at the location has a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing

What if you accidentally dial 9-1-1?

  • DO NOT HANG UP! Even if you think you are able to disconnect quickly enough, you aren’t! Your call will still ring into the 9-1-1 center. Call-takers have to call back every hang-up 9-1-1 call. Making these callbacks take up time, causing extra workload and could delay our ability to answer other, emergency calls.
  • If you call 9-1-1 on accident, stay on the phone and let the dispatcher know it was an accident and there is no emergency.
  • Approximately 32% of all 9-1-1 calls in Washington State are accidental. Click here to learn how you can help prevent accidental calls.

For medical help, we will ask these questions: 

  • What is the address/location of the patient
  • Is the patient conscious (If the patient is conscious, we will ask to speak to the patient)
  • If the patient is not conscious, we will ask if the patient is breathing normally
  • How old is the patient
  • What is the chief complaint/reason for calling 9-1-1
  • Once we identify the chief complaint a specific list of questions are asked to gather further information for the medical responders

Things to know: 

  • We are here to help you – we ask questions that are necessary to determine the appropriate response to your needs.
  • You should dial 9-1-1 for the fastest response when police, fire, or medical assistance is needed.
  • You can legally call 9-1-1 if you are driving, but be careful!
  • You can send a text to 9-1-1 in King, Snohomish, Pierce, and other counties in the state of Washington. Because of the time it takes to text back and forth, we ask that you call 9-1-1 if you can, text if you cannot. Click here for further information.
  • All 9-1-1 centers have access to language line services for those who either do not speak English or feel more comfortable speaking another language. Let the dispatcher know which language you speak and they will connect you with an interpreter on the phone.
  • You might get transferred. The routing system is complex when calling from a cell phone. Stay on the line and we will ensure you get to the right people who can send help.


  • Try calling from another phone that uses a different carrier or different technology.
  • If your wireline isn’t working, try using a cell phone and vice versa.
  • If your cell phone isn’t working and you don’t have a wireline, try another cell phone on a different network.
  • Try calling the 10-digit emergency number for NORCOM at 425-577-5656.
  • Try texting to 911 from a cell phone device.