What you need to know about 911

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By Ted Mink

We all know that 911 is the number to call in the United States to get help in a police, fire or medical emergency. A 911 call goes to the emergency dispatch center closest to the caller, and trained personnel send the emergency responders to the caller’s location.

In Jefferson County, a team of dispatchers answers 163,000 service calls a year and dispatches five law enforcement agencies and 11 fire departments. Our dispatchers are trained in emergency medical dispatching, meaning they can talk a caller through basic medical treatment until help arrives.


Calling 911 from a land line

When you call 911 from a traditional phone or, “land line,” a dispatcher sees a screen that provides the phone number you’re calling from, the name associated with the phone line, and the street address of the phone. Dispatchers will ask you to verify the information so they can be sure to send help to the right location. If you call 911 from a multi-line phone system (often found in office buildings), it may be difficult for dispatchers to determine your exact location. You can help by telling them the address, floor and room.


Calling 911 from a mobile phone

When you call 911 from a wireless phone, the call-taker will still know some information about your phone and location, but not as much. He or she will know your phone company and phone number. The call-taker may know the general area you’re calling from, but the area could be several square miles. You’ll have to provide specific information to help them send help to the right place. If you’re in a building, try to provide the street address. If you’re on a roadway, try to provide the cross streets, mile marker information or a well-known landmark.

Don’t give children old cell phones to play with without removing the batteries first. Disabled phones are programmed to still dial 911. Our dispatchers have received as many as 40 calls in one day from children playing with an old cell phone. 

e911: Why we’re calling you in an emergency

In Jefferson County, the e911 Target Notification system (sometimes called “reverse 911”) is a tool we use to call citizens to warn them of danger. With it, we can simultaneously dial phone numbers within a preset area to warn residents of flood, fire, tornadoes, chemical spills or dangerous fugitives nearby.

Within moments, calls reach the affected community to deliver warnings and critical safety instructions. The system uses the county’s 911 database as its source for telephone numbers and can process up to 2,000 telephone numbers per minute. The system also works with all phones that have a TDD line (used to communicate to the hearing impaired).

If you receive an e911 call, the voice on the line will let you know it’s a message from the Sheriff’s Office. Also, your caller ID will likely display our agency’s name and a call-back number. Both published and non-published “land line” numbers are dialed, and the system will leave a message if an answering machine picks up. If it reaches a busy signal, the system will try to call back three times. If you have a telephone zapper used to block out telemarketers or your phone is blocked to unknown callers, you will not receive e911 calls.

For the system to call your cell phone or VoIP phone, you must first register your number with the 911 Authority Board.


Register your cell or VOIP for e911 alerts

As of March 5, residents and businesses in Jefferson and Broomfield counties can register mobile phone numbers or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone numbers to receive e911 notifications.

Subscribers’ wireless and VoIP information will be kept in a separate database from the land-line numbers, so that if subscribers are already in the 911 land-line database, their information will not be changed.

To register, visit http://jeffco.us/sheriff/sheriff_T62_R259.htm.