What to expect when you call 911


When you call 911, chances are it is the worst day of your life. Telecommunicators (911 dispatchers) understand at that moment your world may feel like it is falling apart. Telecommunicators talk to people all day every day who are experiencing these emotions. Calling 911 is stressful as well as many other emotions all at once, however it is important to understand and to remember the questions they are asking is for the purpose of getting the best possible outcome for your emergency.

The Colleton County 911 Communications Center dispatches for 7 emergency agencies. When one 911 call is received, depending on the emergency, the caller may feel only one agency response is needed, but depending on the answers to the questions, their emergency may actually require a multi agency response.

The Colleton County 911 Communications Center has on staff several telecommunicators at a time. This is important to remember, especially for 911 callers. As the caller is talking to the telecommunicator, they enter the call and another telecommunicator in the room is sending the resources needed for your emergency at the same time. As new critical information is received by the “call-taking” telecommunicator and the information is entered into the call, and the

“dispatching” telecommunicator is updating the responding units.

Telecommunicators work off of the principle of the 5 W’s: where, what, when, who, and weapons.


What is the address of the emergency. Where is the incident taking place?Is the caller still at this location or have they changed locations. If the call involves suspect(s), is the suspect(s) still on scene or have they moved to a different location. So now, we are possibly dealing with more than one location.

Your first instinct is likely to immediately go into what is happening, which we do need, but first and foremost, we need the location of the emergency. Where is the first critical link in getting responders in route to your emergency.


What is taking place? What is your emergency? Is your need for law enforcement, medical or fire. Sometimes it is all three at once. The more the telecommunicators know, the more resources we can send at one time.


When did your emergency happen? Is the emergency active and on-going or did you arrive at the location and find the incident. For all types of emergencies, the time frame is important. If it is a medical emergency, depending on the complaint, the telecommunicator can provide pre-arrival instructions to help with the medical emergency. Ex: If someone is not breathing, telecommunicators can provide CPR instructions over the phone. If the emergency is a motor vehicle collision - how many vehicles involved, how many patients, is anyone entrapped (stuck and not able to get out), are hazardous materials (vehicle types) involved, depending on the answers received will determine how many resources are needed. If the telecommunicator knows at the time of the call, the right resources can be sent immediately. If these questions are not answered and it is not until a unit is on scene and provides updated and crucial information and they request additional resources this has caused a gap in response time. This can be a serious and even deadly delay for the patient(s) involved. Time is of the essence. We teach our telecommunicators “TIME IS TISSUE”.


Who is involved? Are there patient(s), victim(s) and or suspect(s)? Is the emergency an assault? If so, knowing if the victim is also a patient is important (is medical attention needed for injuries). If there is a victim, typically there is a suspect(s). Where is the suspect(s), on scene and the victim(s) is still endangered or the suspect(s) has left and the victim is now safe.


Were weapons used? While this information seems obvious to provide, in the heat of the moment it can be easily overlooked. Also, weapons can be anything, not just knives and guns. If an item was used (brick, stick, glass, stool, chair, etc) that is a weapon and that information is needed. If the victim is armed for self-defense, the telecommunicator needs to know that information as well.

Telecommunicators are here for you. It is our job to help in your moment of need. We want the best outcome for the caller and their goal is to make that happen with every single call. The answers you provide, help make this possible.