911 - What to Expect

If You Are Experiencing an Emergency Call 911

Many questions that we receive in Emergency Services are centered around finding out what happens when a citizen or visitor to Orange County calls 911. This brief overview provides a quick view of what happens when someone calls 911.

  • A member of the public calls 911
  • The call goes to the 911 center
  • A telecommunicator takes the call and asks the caller questions to determine the nature of the problem or emergency
  • The telecommunicator enters the answers to the questions into a database
  • The database links all telecommunicators in the 911 center
  • A telecommunicator dispatches a resource to help
  • The resource depends on:
    • The nature of the emergency (like an injury/illness, fire, larceny, animal bite, communicable disease issue)
    • The location of the caller (Northern Orange County, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough)
    • Safety concerns (Downed power lines, livestock in the roadway, traffic safety, leaking flammable fluids)
  • The telecommunicator tells the responders the caller's location and the nature of the problem
  • The database determines whether lights and sirens will be used
  • Responders communicate with each other to get directions, manage hazards and help the caller

Things to Consider with 911

  • As long as it is safe for the caller, the telecommunicator will remain on the line on all serious calls until responders arrive
  • If you or your child accidentally dial 911, a telecommunicator may call you back to determine what happened
  • Clearly and simple answers make the response swifter and more appropriate
  • Stay calm as best you can