April is National 9-1-1 Education Month and Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) Reminds Residents to “Help Us, Help You”

April 2, 2021

OEMC offers tips on calling 9-1-1 in an emergency


Calling 9-1-1 in an emergency is vital to getting the help needed. During April, which is designated as National 9-1-1 Education Month, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) is increasing public outreach efforts. The National 9-1-1 Education Month program encourages all to learn 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 through our social media platforms and much more. In addition, OEMC will honor all our 9-1-1 Call takers and Dispatchers and 3-1-1 Call Takers during National Telecommunicators Week, April 11–17. OEMC will also hold an awards ceremony to recognize Call Takers and Dispatchers who went above and beyond the call of duty in 2020.  


“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. “After the challenges faced in 2020, it’s more important than ever to educate residents to know what information is needed to save lives when the call 9-1-1 and the advantages of signing up for Smart911.” 


Often callers are in distress, which may cause frustration with the information gathering being done by 9-1-1 personnel. It’s important to know before an urgent situation occurs how to provide the important information need to save lives.  


Tips for Calling 9-1-1 

Sign up for SMART911 at www.SMART911.com or via the mobile app.: Why is this helpful? 

  • Save Time - 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. The Smart911 profile you create is displayed to the call taker when you call 9-1-1 from the registered phone number. 
  • Help with Location - Because most 9-1-1 calls are made from cell phones today and by providing home address in the profile, the call taker can possibly better verify the location of the incident when time is of the essence. 
  • Prepare First Responder - In COVID-19 times, by including vaccination data and other household information, the first responders can know vital information prior to arrival. 
  • Get Resources Needed - Medical details and conditions such as allergies, medicines, mental health situations and autism can be provided which can help to get the resources needed. Residents can also 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. 
  • Save Your Pet - Do you share your home with pets? This information can assist firefighters in their search to bring everyone, including your pets, to safety. 


Know your location:  Did you know that cell phones do not give exact locations?  

Cell phones ping off the nearest cell tower from where you are calling from and that’s why it’s important to provide call-takers with your exact location.   

It’s helpful to give landmarks, such as buildings, parks or cross streets, etc. to identify where you are since the call taker may not automatically know your location. 


Call first, then Text: Although an initial text to 9-1-1 is not yet available in Chicago, the 9-1-1 system can receive voice communications and then enter text conversation BUT only when your call is answered by a call taker first.   


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, age, height, weight, clothing, tattoos, scars/marks, hair, face, or complexion. Describe vehicles such as make, color, plate number 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.   


Did you know?  

  • Any person reporting a crime – who is not a victim - may inform the call-taker that he/she wishes to remain anonymous. 
  • You can send a follow-up picture to 9-1-1 from your cell phone AFTER you call 9-1-1 for an emergency. 
  • 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. 
  • If 9-1-1 is accidentally called, it’s important to stay on the line and tell the call taker that you do not have an emergency.  Call takers will typically call back a number that is a hang up so let them know it was a non-intentional call. 
  • A wireless phone with no active service can still call 9-1-1 so don’t give old phones to children as toys. 


For additional information, visit our website at Chicago.gov/OEMC. Follow the Office of Emergency Management and Communications on Facebook, Twitter (@ChicagoOEMC) and Instagram (chicago_oemc_911) using the hashtags #ChicagoOEMC #Smart911 #Chicago911 #ThankYou911.    


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