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Fire-Rescue Department

9-1-1 Frequently Asked Questions

What happens when I call 9-1-1?

Your call will be routed to the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction from which you are calling. If your call is for fire or medical services, you’ll be transferred to the San Diego Fire-Rescue (SDFD) Emergency Command and Data Center, where a fire/medical dispatcher will enter your call for service and provide you with the appropriate medical instructions.

Does 9-1-1 know where I am?

If you are calling from a landline or VOIP phone, your address and phone number are displayed on the dispatcher’s screen. If you are calling from a cell phone, the dispatcher will likely have your phone number but may not always know your exact location or address. Even if dispatchers have your location information

What information will I be asked for?

When you call 9-1-1, you should be ready to provide:

  • City, location, address
  • Cross street
  • Phone number
  • Description of the emergency

Remember, try to remain calm so the dispatcher can help you.

What should I do if a dispatcher does not immediately answer when I call?

If you receive a busy signal after dialing 9-1-1 from a cellular phone, hang up and try again.

If you receive a recording after dialing 9-1-1 from a standard phone, stay on the phone and do not hang up! Calls are received in a time queue and are answered in the order they are received. If you hang up and place a second call, the cycle begins all over again, and your call is delayed. It is not unusual during large incidents for many people to call to report the same incident. Be patient, and do not hang up. We may need more information, and you may be the person who has it!

Do dispatchers provide medical care instructions before the arrival of emergency services?

All SDFD dispatchers are trained and certified as emergency medical dispatchers. This training provides them with the knowledge and skills to talk callers through lifesaving techniques while emergency crews are the way to you. When necessary, dispatchers provide instructions on performing CPR, controlling bleeding, the Heimlich maneuver, and childbirth, to name a few.

Why does the dispatcher ask me so many questions?

Fire/medical dispatchers follow a predetermined set of questions and protocols. Based on your responses, they can determine the best level of care and help for you. The dispatcher’s questions do not delay the fire or ambulance crew’s arrival.