In an Emergency, Seconds Count: How to Make 911 Work For You

Each April, the Village joins other cities and emergency agencies across the nation in celebrating "911 Education Month." For over forty years, 911 has been the official number to call in the event of an emergency to receive police, fire or medical emergency services and one of the biggest success stories in emergency management of all time. An estimated 240 million calls are placed to centers across the nation each year resulting in countless saved lives. Unfortunately, despite this, misinformation about the system and abuse continue to be all too common. That's why it is essential to learn about the system, its use and how best to make it work for you and share that information with your friends, family and neighbors. Remember: the more you know about the system, the faster you can receive the services you need. In an emergency, seconds count, and the next life you save might be your own. Below are some common questions regarding 911 with answers and links to more informational resources:

1. When should I call 911?

Call 911 only in an emergency. An emergency is any serious medical problem (chest pain, seizure, bleeding), any type of fire (business, car, building), or any life-threatening situation (fights, person with weapons, etc). You are also urged to call 9-1-1 to report crimes that are in progress, whether or not a life is threatened.

2. When I call, what should I say?

Briefly describe the emergency (i.e. "I am calling to report a car accident," "I'm reporting a crime in progress," etc.) The operator will then ask a series of follow-up questions. Please answer these as calmly and factually as possible to ensure the right responders are dispatched. Do not hang up the phone until the operator tells you to as they may need continuous information throughout the response.

3. Does it matter what kind of phone or connection I use to call 911?

In most cases, no. Any phone calls made from landlines or Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) will be directed right to the Gurnee center. Cell phone calls may be sent to a regional center, but dispatchers will always confirm the address or location of the incident regardless of what type of phone or connection is used to make a call.

However, there are two things to keep in mind. First, most VOIP calls are made using the internet. If you lose power or your internet connection, a call cannot be sent. Therefore, it would be wise to have a landline or cell phone in addition to your VOIP phone. Second, if your cell phone is not “initialized” (meaning that you do not have a contract with your wireless service provider), the dispatcher may not be able to see your number. If your call is disconnected, you will have to call the dispatcher back for assistance.

4. What should I do if I accidentally call 911?

Approximately 32% of 911 calls from a wireless phone are misdials. Misdials can occur when buttons are accidentally held to long, such as the ‘9’ or ‘1’ keys, when the Emergency Button on lock screen is pressed or when people are attempting to dial a country code extension.  These misdials result in 53.76 million misdials every year!

If you do misdial, do not hang up. Stay on the line and explain to the dispatcher that you dialed by mistake and that you do not have an emergency. If you simply hang up on a call, a police officer may be dispatched to check on you.

5. Where can I find information that I can share with my children?

The IL-911Info page has many resources geared toward several different age groups on its website.

For more information, see the IL-911Info page or contact the 911 Center through the Police Department's non-emergency number at (847) 599-7000.