Frequently asked questions about 911

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What if I accidently dial 911?

You should stay on the line and let the operator know. The telephone system routes your call to the Emergency Communications Center as soon as you finish dialing, even if you have hung up.

As a result, an operator must attempt to call you back. Depending on the circumstances an operator may need to send police officers to your location if he or she cannot verify that you dialed accidently.

Why does it seem to take longer than usual for the phone to start ringing when I dial 911?

When you dial 911, the telephone company identifies your call and routes it to the appropriate dispatch center. If you are calling from a cell phone, the call has to route from your phone to the cell tower to the telephone company’s database before routing to the Emergency Communications Center (ECC). This takes seconds but seems to take longer because the call is silent until it is routed to the ECC. When analog equipment was used, you could hear sounds that are not audible with digital routing.

Callers sometimes say their phone rang five or six times before it was answered, but our phone system database shows it rang only once or twice in the ECC. This happens because the call is first routed to the ECC and then routed to an available operator.

What if a caller does not speak English well enough to explain what he or she needs and to answer the operator’s questions?

Some of the operators speak languages other than English, such as Hmong and Spanish. Ramsey County also uses a language translation service provided by the State of Minnesota to handle emergency calls.

Will an operator tell me how long it will take for an officer to arrive?

Several factors affect how long it takes an officer to respond to a call. This includes the number and type of calls coming from the same neighborhood at the same time, the number of officers working in that neighborhood, weather, road conditions and traffic.

Why does it take so long for help to arrive?

See the response to the previous question. Another reason is that for anyone waiting for help, it always seems to take too long. Operators notice this, too, when they keep callers on the phone during in-progress calls.

Can police arrive faster by using their sirens or driving faster?

For many calls they can. But not all calls meet established criteria for using sirens or driving faster. Studies have shown that sirens do not reduce response times nearly as much as many people expect. Sometimes weather or traffic or both are so bad that other vehicles have no place to go to get out of the way, or it is too slippery to drive faster.

Why do different emergency responders ask the same questions?

Sometimes calling for help is like being at the hospital. Everyone at the hospital who comes into a patient’s room asks him or her the same or similar questions. The situation is similar with emergency responders. The reasons are the same as at the hospital: it is a way of ensuring that we have the correct information and avoid misunderstandings that might otherwise occur as information is shared.

Why do you always seem so calm?

Operators try to remain calm to get you the help that you need as efficiently as possible.

How do I get a copy of my 911 call?

You need to request that through the agency that handled your call. The ECC will be able to tell you which agency if you aren’t certain and give you the phone number to call. In some situations the agency will give you an audio copy of the call. In other situations they will provide you with a transcript.

If police officers or firefighters did not respond to the call and no information in the call violates data privacy rules, we may be able to provide you with a copy of the call if you were the person who called.

Is it possible to tour the dispatch center?

Yes, it is possible to arrange a tour for groups. If children are involved, they must be old enough to understand the need to be relatively quiet. Our radio and telephone equipment is sensitive enough to pick up loud voices and other background noise. To ask about a tour, call 651-266-7719.

Can I get a scanner to monitor radio traffic?

Scanners are generally legal for home or office use. However, there are some state and federal statutes regarding the use of scanners. For instance, you can monitor but cannot reuse information. Stores and online dealers will sell you scanners and help you get them set up correctly. Be sure that the scanner can receive APCO Project 25 trunked transmissions with a 9600 baud control channel. Otherwise, the scanner will be usable in monitoring agencies on "conventional" UHF and VHF frequencies only.