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The Telecommunicator may ask you questions that you believe are irrelevant. Trust in the Telecommunicator’s training and experience, and they will guide you to provide the information needed by the police and fire departments to get you the quickest and most helpful response. There are multiple Telecommunicators working in the 911 center, and while you are being asked questions by one, someone else reading the information on a computer screen is actually dispatching the police and/or fire units based on the information you are providing.
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Unless you are calling 911 from your home phone, there is a good chance the 911 center doesn’t have your exact location. Therefore when answering a call, the Telecommunicator will ask the location where the incident is occurring, including the name of the town you are calling from. It is very important to know where you are and/or where the incident is occurring. If you do not know the exact street address, the next best location is the closest intersection. This information is needed on all 911 calls but especially wireless calls as there is no guarantee your initial wireless 911 call will route to the correct 911 center.
All non-emergency matters should be directed to the 10-digit non-emergency telephone number (847-251-2141), as 311 is only available in some locations, such as the City of Chicago and the City of Evanston.
Never just hang up. You may have called 911 by accident, or your situation may have resolved itself, but it is important to let the 911 Telecommunicator know this. If you end the call abruptly, the Telecommunicators at the 911 center are going to assume that something has gone wrong and will either call you back or send help anyway. Some communities require the dispatch of police officers on any hang up calls. This will take away from the 911 center’s ability to take calls and dispatch services to on-going emergencies, so make sure the 911 call taker tells you it is OK to disconnect before you hang up. And keep in mind that the call taker can dispatch responders to your location without disconnecting from the call, so, until you are instructed to do otherwise, make sure to hold the line so that you can provide any necessary information or assistance to the 911 operator.
The responders who come to assist you are most likely from your community, but your 911 call is answered in a consolidated 911 dispatch center by trained professionals working outside of your community. Each 911 Telecommunicator receives in-depth classroom and hands-on training over an approximate 16-week training program. This training also includes geographic awareness and ride-alongs with those who serve your community to learn the area. In addition, all 911 Telecommunicators have access to highly detailed mapping technologies.