9-1-1 Basics


What is 9-1-1?
The three-digit telephone number “9-1-1” has been designated as the “Universal Emergency Number,” for citizens throughout the United States to request emergency assistance. 9-1-1 is intended as a nationwide telephone number and gives the public fast and easy access to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).
In most areas of North America, citizens have basic or enhanced 9-1-1 service from their landline, or wireline, phones in their homes or workplaces. Basic 9-1-1 means that when “9-1-1” is dialed, a call taker in the PSAP answers the call. The emergency and its location are communicated only by the caller. In areas serviced by Enhanced 9-1-1, the local PSAP has equipment that allows the call taker to see the caller’s phone number and location. With Smart911, call takers are able to see much more- exact address, medical information, home and vehicle information and emergency contacts.

Why the numbers “9-1-1”?
The number sequence “9-1-1” was chosen because it best fit the needs of all parties involved. It met public requirements because it is brief, easily remembered, and can be dialed quickly. Additionally, it was a unique number because it had never been authorized as an office code, area code, or service code.
Does everyone have 9-1-1?
You may be surprised to learn that not everyone in the U.S. has 9-1-1 service.
• At the end of the 20th century, nearly 93% of the population of the United States was covered by some type of 9-1-1 service.
• Ninety-five percent of that coverage was Enhanced 9-1-1.
• Approximately 96% of the geographic US is covered by some type of 9-1-1.
• Source: http://www.nena.org/?page=911overviewfacts

Is there a difference between calling 9-1-1 from a cell phone and a landline?

Calling 9-1-1 from a cell phone is very different f than calling from a landline phone because Enhanced 9-1-1 cannot identify your exact location if you call from a cell phone. When you call 911 from a landline, the call taker sees the phone number and address of the landline phone you’re using. However, cell phone signals only provide a general location, not an exact address.  Because of this key difference, make sure to have your location ready to provide the 9-1-1 call taker and complete a Smart911 profile that includes your address.

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