Call 9-1-1!

Contributor: Suzanne Riordan. Lesson ID: 13315

You already know to call 9-1-1 in an emergency, but what happens after you dial the number? Learn about the emergency response system and your responsibility. What you know could save someone's life!


Practical Life Skills

Life Skills
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Beaver, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio: Image - Button Play
Image - Lession Started Image - Button Start

Don't be like this little guy in the video below and call 9-1-1 to get help with your math homework!

Top 5 FUNNIEST Reasons KIDS Called 911 (Funny & Adorable Calls) from Spooky Trends:

Image - Video

Yes, little kids do funny and cute things. But 9-1-1 is a serious business.

  • So, when should you call 9-1-1?

9-1-1 is the number to call if you have an emergency anywhere in America.

It's also used in Canada, Mexico, and parts of South America, too! (Shown in yellow on the map.)

world emergency telephone numbers map

Image by The RedBurn, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

  • That's amazing, isn't it?

It means that, wherever you are in America, all you have to do is remember those 3 numbers, and you can speak to someone who is trained to get you the help you need, almost immediately.

Anyone -- man, woman, child, or even dog (yes, dog! more on that later!) -- can call at any time, and the call will be answered.

  • Have you ever wondered how this great system was invented?

Watch the following video to learn!

How "911" Became the Emergency Call Number in North America from Today I Found Out:

Image - Video

Now that you know the history of 9-1-1, let's learn when to call and what happens when you call.

When to Call

  • You know you should only call 9-1-1 if it's an emergency, but what qualifies as an emergency?

Here are the situations where you should call 9-1-1:

Image - Video

What Happens Next

  • What happens when you call 9-1-1?

Listen to a dispatcher supervisor as she explains What Happens When You Call 911, from Oak Park:

Image - Video

Let's review what you need to do when you call:

  • Give your name and address and tell what kind of help you need.

If you're not at home, ask someone the address, or look around for a street sign or landmark.

  • Stay calm and speak clearly.

This is hard to do when you're scared and upset, but you have to speak clearly so the operator can understand what the problem is. Answer all of the questions as best as you can.

  • Don't rush!

The 9-1-1 operator will dispatch (send) someone right away, while you're on the phone, so don't feel you need to rush and get off the phone to make something happen!

  • Don't hang up!

The operator may need to ask you more questions or tell you something you can do to help. Even if the person you called about seems OK or the situation changes, don't hang up until the operator tells you to.

Dispatchers can do a lot to help, even with a 4-year-old child who doesn't know his address!

Watch Police: 4-Year-Old's 911 Call Saves Mom's Life from KCCI:

Image - Video

Now let's look at some common questions people have about the 9-1-1 system.

Can 9-1-1 operators tell your location when you call from home?

Yes, usually they can when you are using a landline phone.

There's a new system call Enhanced 9-1-1, which gives the dispatcher the location of the caller automatically. It's available in about 96% of the United States.

But try to know your location's address when you call, just to be sure.

Can you call 9-1-1 from a cell phone?

Yes, you can, but it's harder for the system to locate you on a cell phone than on your home phone.

The cell call can be traced to the nearest cell phone tower, but often that's not close enough to get an exact location. As technology progresses, this should improve.

Can you text 9-1-1?

Some 9-1-1 centers have the ability to respond to texts, but most do not. It's better to call to be sure you'll get help.

But, if you can't call, texting is better than doing nothing!

What happens if you call 9-1-1 as a joke or prank?

Most states have laws against making prank calls to 9-1-1, and people who do this can be charged with a crime!

What happens if you dial 9-1-1 by accident?

If you dial 9-1-1 by accident, don't hang up! The operator will assume that there is a problem at your address and send help anyway. This could take their resources away from someone else who really does need help!

If you or someone else dials it by accident, tell the operator that it was an accidental call and wait until you are told to hang up.

Here's a way to help avoid accidental 9-1-1 calls:

  • Never play with, or let anyone else play with, a phone --- even a de-activated cell phone has the ability to call the 9-1-1 system!

child playing with a phone

Now to answer that question you've been wondering about:

  • Did a dog really call 9-1-1?

dog playing with a phone

Yes! There are several stories of service dogs calling 9-1-1 when their owners needed help!

Hear about one of them in Dog Calls 911 After Owner Has Seizure, from the Associated Press:

Image - Video

Now that you know about the 9-1-1 system, move on to the Got It? section, where you'll test your new knowledge and see if you can decide when to call and when not to!

Image - Button Next