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Tips for making 911 calls

Dispatchers tell News 6 what they need to know when you call 911

Whenever anyone makes a 911 call during an emergency, they expect to have to give their name, address and phone number.

[WEB EXTRAS: 911 services guide | Tips for calling 911 ]

But in some situations, it's not just what you say to the 911 operator—it can be what you don't say that can be instrumental in saving your life.

"We're in a business where seconds count," said Kimberly Stewart-Horan, of the Orange County Emergency Call Center. "We're not even talking minutes, seconds count."

In those moments, there are a few things callers can do and say to help operators help them.

"Sometimes during all that hysteria, we are having a difficult time getting an address, getting a phone number and those are things that are vital," said Stewart-Horan. "We have to know where you are."

1. Give description of where you are.

If you don't know an address, operators said the next best thing is to give a description of your surroundings, being as specific as possible.

April McCleary has been a 911 operator and says this information is extremely helpful.

"Tell us a street sign they saw or maybe a business name, because some businesses are unique," said McCleary. "That will help our operators use our resources here to figure out where they are."

2. Stay in same location.

Don't drive around, once you call 9-1-1.

In a recent call, a woman was attacked while walking on Bumby Road in Orlando but then left the scene.

"I was attacked by some guy," said the caller.

"Where are you right now?" asked the 911 operator.

"I'm in my car," said the caller. "I'm just driving around because I don't know what else to do."

"If you're driving around, you're going to be moving and you could be moving into another jurisdiction," said Communications Manager Nancy King. "We can't get help to you fast if we're trying to look for you while you're driving around."


3. Don't hang up phone.
4. Leave it off the hook

Don't hang up the phone. Operators recommend you leave it off the hook if you have to, that way they can listen to what's going on. Operators have to make quick decisions, remain calm, stay professional and attentive especially for callers who can't talk.

"We train our people to listen to what is being said and what is not being said and those are the noises in the background," said McCleary.


5. Pretend you're speaking to friend on phone

If need be, pretend you are talking to a friend.

In another call, the caller was trying to escape a dangerous situation, so she pretended to talk to her friend, rather than a 911 operator.

"Is there somebody there with you that's not allowing you to talk?" asked the operator.

"Right, exactly," said the caller.

"I need you to try and tell me, is he sitting next to you on the couch? Yes or no?" asked the operator.

"Ahh, yes," said the caller.

"I want you to stay on the phone with me," said the operator. "I want you to laugh or something, like I told you a joke, but I need you to stay on the phone with me."

Just last month, News 6 reported a story where a woman who was being stalked called 911 from a RaceTrac in Lady Lake.

Operators told the caller to stay inside the store and again, pretend she was on the phone with a friend.

"Um, I've had a guy that was stalking me yesterday and last night and I just saw ran into him again," said the caller. "Me and my daughter went to the bathroom so we wouldn't be around him."

"Just keep it as like a casual conversation, not like you're talking to anyone on an emergency line. Okay?" said the operator. "If you want to, you can just say ‘yes' and ‘no', okay?"

Operators also recommend you stay in a well-lit place with people around, if possible.

They said the most important thing to remember is to try and stay calm. That way, they can get all the information they need from you and are able to get you the help you need as quickly as possible.