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Fire-Rescue Department

What Happens When You Call 9-1-1

Photo of Dispatcher

In the City of San Diego where your 9-1-1 call goes depends upon where you place the phone call:

Standard Phone

  • If you call from a home or business phone in the City of San Diego, your 9-1-1 call first goes to the San Diego Police Department. The Police Department call taker will ask you the type of emergency (i.e. Police, Fire or Medical Emergency).
  • If your emergency involves a fire or medical problem, your call will be immediately transferred to the Metro Zone Emergency Command and Data Center.
  • If your emergency involves a problem in the waters of our beaches and bays, the police department call taker will forward your 9-1-1 call to the Lifeguard's Communications Center.

When you call 9-1-1 from a home or residence, your number and address may be displayed on a computer screen for the emergency call taker. This information helps City emergency crews respond more efficiently to your problem.

Cellular Phone

  • If you call from a cell phone, your call is directed to the 9-1-1 dispatch center closest to your current location or, if you are near a freeway or highway, to the California Highway Patrol (CHP). Again, the call taker will ask you the nature of your emergency and will forward your call to the appropriate agency.

Be aware, when you call on your cell phone, the dispatcher may not be able to detect your location as with a residential or business 9-1-1 call. It's important to know your location when calling on a cell phone. In order for your cell phone to send your location to the dispatch center, callers need to activate their telephone GPS settings so the GPS module can pass along the caller location. Citizens should contact their service providers for detailed instructions.

Download our free brochure "Help 911 Help You" in English and Español