San Diego

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does it have to be an emergency to call 9-1-1?

When you need an emergency service, dial 9-1-1. This means if you need a police officer, a fire engine, or an ambulance to come to you as soon as possible, you should dial 9-1-1. If your situation is not threatening life or property, dial the administrative or non-emergency number of the agency you need.

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 on a cellular phone, hang up and try again.

If you receive a recording after dialing 9-1-1 on 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 in 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 San Diego Fire/Medical Dispatchers are trained and certified as Emergency Medical Dispatchers. This training provides them with the knowledge and skills to talk callers through life saving techniques while emergency equipment is on the way. When necessary, dispatchers provide instructions on performing CPR, controlling bleeding, the Heimlich maneuver, and childbirth, to name a few. But, you must stay on the phone, listen to instructions, and remain calm when dispatchers are providing life saving techniques. Remember, the dispatcher is not only providing instructions to you, but is also ensuring that emergency help is on the way at the same time. You should also know that dispatchers are not nurses or EMTs; they do not have training to advise you on anything other than emergency procedures such as those stated above. If you need medical advice only, it is best to contact your physician and/or local hospital emergency room.

Why does the dispatcher ask me so many questions?

Emergency Fire/Medical Dispatchers follow a predetermined set of questions and protocols. Based on your answers to these questions, they can determine the best level of care and help for you. For example, a heart attack will elicit a different response level than a broken arm, and a trash can fire will elicit a different response than a house fire.


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