April 7, 2019

OEMC Reminds Callers: "Help Us Help You!" During National 9-1-1 Education Month

Campaign Stresses Importance of Knowing What to Expect and Tips for Calling 9-1-1 to Get Help Needed

The Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) is again reminding Chicagoans to “Help Us Help You!” through an educational campaign during National 9-1-1 Education Month to inform the public about how callers can help 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers provide the appropriate resources to Chicagoans and visitors in emergency situations. Throughout the month of April, OEMC will be highlighting tips and other important information at community speaking engagements and CAPS meetings, as well as through social media and digital message board displays across the city.

“We are proud of our 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers, who serve as the City's front line of response to both those experiencing emergencies as well as those responding to the emergencies,” said OEMC Executive Director Rich Guidice. ““By educating the public through the ‘Help Us Help You’ campaign and letting people know about why the questions are asked and what information is needed, we can better serve callers to 9-1-1.”

Often callers are in distress, which may cause frustration with the information gathering being done by 9-1-1 personnel; however, knowing ahead of time – before an urgent situation – why the process is important can help all concerned. For this reason, OEMC is committed to the “Help Us Help You” campaign to educate anyone calling 9-1-1.

Tips for Calling 9-1-1

Help call takers help you by signing up for Smart911: Sign up today at Smart911.com or via the mobile app. Smart911 is a free, voluntary and secure service that allows individuals and families to provide personal, medical, or situational information when they call 9-1-1 to help first responders rapidly assist in the case of an emergency. This includes a home address – because today, 75% of 9-1-1 calls are made from cell phone – making it difficult for 9-1-1 call takers to determine the exact location of an emergency. When creating your Safety Profile, you can also include things about:
• Allergies – Does someone in your family have a life-threatening allergy to food or medication? 911 dispatchers will be able to immediately inform first responders.
• Autism – Does your child have Autism? Do they have a tendency to wander or hide when scared? Uploading a photo and a physical description of your child makes them easier to locate in case of an emergency.
• Multi-Lingual Households – Residents can sign up for a safety profile in ANY language and indicate that they or someone in the household has difficulty communicating in English. 9-1-1 will know to connect them with an interpreter ASAP in an emergency.
• Animals – Do you share your home with pets? This information can assist firefighters in their search to bring everyone, including your pets, to safety.….as well as information about your current medications, physical disability, mental health, home layout, emergency contacts, and much more.


Know your location: When calling 9-1-1, one of the first things you’ll be asked to provide is the location of the emergency you’re reporting. Always be aware of your surroundings and where you are calling from so you can tell the call taker the address of the emergency. It’s helpful to give landmarks, such as buildings, parks or cross streets, etc. to identify where you are and where responders need to go. The call taker may not automatically know your location so you will be asked to confirm it.


Know your cell well: Did you know that cell phones do not give exact locations? They ping off the nearest cell tower from where you are calling from. That’s why it’s important to provide call-takers with your exact location. Also, text to 911 is not an option in Chicago; the system can receive voice communications only. Before calling 9-1-1 understand how your cellphone works in an emergency.


Try to stay calm, listen carefully: Do your best to remain calm, give as much information as you can and follow all instructions. In an emergency, seconds matter, so being knowledgeable and prepared can make all the difference. Knowing what to expect when you call 9-1-1 can help reduce fear and feelings of helplessness in an emergency.


Know how to give information: Give detailed description of situation/offenders, etc. including sex, race, age, height, weight, clothing, tattoos, scars/marks, hair, face, or complexion. Describe vehicles with license, make, color or direction of escape.


Teach kids about 9-1-1: Educate children about calling 9-1-1 including: listening to instructions, knowing their address and floor/apartment number, any medical conditions of those in the home, and understanding that they should not hang up until the call taker tells them. Also, teach kids about the seriousness of prank calling 9-1-1 and to only call for true emergencies to save a life, stop a crime or report a fire. Don’t give old phones to children as toys. A wireless phone with no active service can still call 9-1-1.


As a reminder to adults and children, if 9-1-1 is accidentally called, stay on the line and tell the call taker that you do not have an emergency.


Make the Right Call

Call 9-1-1 when a situation requires immediate police, fire or emergency medical response:

• For Police Services – Call 9-1-1 when there is a crime in progress, an immediate threat to life or bodily injury or a major property damage or loss due to crime.

• For Fire Services – Call 9-1-1 when reporting a fire, hazardous material incidents or a rescue of a trapped person.

• For Emergency Medical Services – Call 9-1-1 to report life-threatening medical emergencies that require an ambulance including heart attacks, asthma attacks or automobile accidents with injuries.


Call 3-1-1 to request a city service or information or to report non-emergency police services:

• For City Services – Call 3-1-1 to request services such as garbage collection or tree trimming, report problems such as potholes or street lights out or to check the status of a request, as well as to get information on special events, CAPS meetings or other City information.

• For Non-Emergency Police Services – Call 3-1-1 to report a situation that does not pose an immediate threat to life, bodily injury or major property damage or loss, to file a police report, report a situation that does not require an immediate police response including pick-pocketing, auto theft, etc. or to report other offenses when the suspect is no longer at the scene.


Did you know….

• Call takers and dispatchers have the responsibility to get the caller the help they need AND assist first responders by dispatching the right resources, as well as providing the most accurate and thorough information available to ensure the safety of the caller and the safety of police, fire and EMS personnel responding to the emergency.

• Any person reporting a crime – who is not a victim - may inform the call-taker that he/she wishes to remain anonymous.

• OEMC typically receives 4.3 million calls a year. If you dial 9-1-1 for a non-emergency matter, you are tying up resources that could be needed in a real emergency.

• Residents cannot text directly to 9-1-1 to request for assistance in Chicago, but you can send a follow-up picture to 9-1-1 from your cell phone AFTER you call 9-1-1 for an emergency.


OEMC is proud of the dedication and contribution of Chicago's 911 call takers and dispatchers, police, fire and EMS personnel and appreciates their commitment to serve and protect all those who live, work and play in Chicago.
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