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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions

  1. When it is appropriate to call 911?
  2. How can non-emergency situations be reported?
  3. What steps should be taken when moving to Boone County? Can an out-of-state cell phone be located by Boone County's 911?
  4. Why do 911 calls sometimes receive a recorded voice message? What should 911 callers do in this situation?
  5. What is enhanced 911?
  6. How does the 911 system handle callers who are deaf or hearing/speech impaired?
  7. How does 911 respond to callers who don't speak English?
  8. Does 911 work with Poison Control Centers?
  9. What happens if 911 is called by mistake?
  10. What happens if 911 is called as a joke or prank?
  11. Why do the 911 staff ask so many questions? Don't they already know the location of the phone that dialed 911?
  12. Does the 911 system accept text messages?
  13. Does 911 accept pictures or videos captured from cell phones?
  14. What considerations should be made when disconnecting a home phone? What happens when 911 is dialed on a cell phone inside a house?
  15. Does 911 work with Internet phone providers (VoIP)? Is location information provided?
  16. Why is the fire department dispatched along with an ambulance to medical emergencies?
  17. It is okay to let children play with deactivated cell phones?
  18. Can an individual or group tour the 911 center?
  19. What types of employment opportunities does Boone County Joint Communications offer?

Answers


1. When it is appropriate to call 911?

911 should only be used for emergencies. An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police/sheriff, the fire department or emergency medical services. If you are in doubt about whether a situation is an emergency, call 911. The emergency telecommunicator will determine if you need emergency assistance.

Some examples of emergencies include:

  • Serious or potentially serious medial problems including:
    • Childbirth
    • Seizures
    • Falls from any height where there is an obvious injury or the victim is unconscious
    • Accidents with injuries
  • Fires, chemical spills, or smoke seen or smelled within a building, home or other structure
  • Crimes against a person either in progress or that have recently occurred
  • Situations where any kind of domestic violence or assault has taken place
  • Shootings
  • Volatile or unknown substances leaking from vehicles, storage tanks, etc
  • Road hazards including drunk, careless or aggressive drivers
  • Dangerous situations including when someone is trapped or hurt in any kind of farming, industrial, or home-related accident
  • Situations where you are in fear for your safety or the safety of others
  • Other life-threatening situations

There are also times when it may not be appropriate to call 911. Some examples include:

  • To test your phone or the 911 system
  • To ask for phone number information or phone repairs
  • To inquire about power outages or school, road or other closings
  • To find out if someone has been arrested or is in jail
  • As a prank or joke
  • For sick or injured pets
  • For the location of election or polling sites
  • To complain about the service or prices in a restaurant or other business
  • For directions to a location
  • For tours of the 911 center or other public safety agencies
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2. How can non-emergency situations be reported?

The non-emergency number for police, fire or EMS dispatch is . Other non-emergency numbers can be found on our 311 page, which lists non-emergency numbers & services.

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3. What steps should be taken when moving to Boone County? Can an out-of-state cell phone be located by Boone County's 911?

Out-of-state cell phones can be located provided you have a newer cell phone equipped with 911 location technology. If you are unsure whether your phone is equipped with such technolgy please check with your service provider. It is always a good idea to notify your cell provider of your new address. You might also consider using the Smart911 system to aid responders.

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4. Why do 911 calls sometimes receive a recorded voice message? What should 911 callers do in this situation?

Commonly confused with being placed on hold, you will receive a recorded message when there are more 911 calls than emergency telecommunicators can handle. This message is more frequently encountered during emergencies that a lot of people witness such as fires or car crashes. In these instances, your call is placed in a waiting call queue and you recieve a recorded voice message informing you that you have reached 911 but no emergency telecommunicator is available to take your call. You should not hang up unless you are in immediate danger. Remain on the line and your call will be answered as quickly as possible.

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5. What is enhanced 911?

Enhanced 911, commonly written E911, is a system that routes a emergency calls to the appropriate 911 answering point, or Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), for the caller's location. E911 automatically displays the caller's phone number and address to the emergency telecommunicator receiving the call. The telecommunicator will typically ask the caller to verify the information appearing on his or her computer screen. In most areas, phone number and location information is available for 911 calls made from cellular or wireless phones.

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6. How does the 911 system handle callers who are deaf or hearing/speech impaired?

Emergency telecommunicators use special text telephones called TTY/TDDs for responding to 911 calls from deaf or hearing/speech impaired callers.

Deaf or hearing/speech impaired callers using a TTY/TDD should:

  • Stay calm, place the phone receiver in the TTY and dial 911.
  • After the call is answered, press the TTY keys several times. This may help shorten the time necessary to respond to the call.
  • Give the emergency telecommunicator time to connect their TTY. If necessary, press the TTY keys again. The emergency telecommunicator should answer and type "GA" for "go ahead."
  • Tell whether police, fire or medical assistance is needed. Give your name, phone number and the address of where help is needed.
  • If it is safe, stay on the phone and answer the telecommunicator's questions.

Deaf or hearing/speech impaired callers without a TTY/TDD device should:

  • Use a telephone relay service, if possible.
  • Call 911 and don't hang up so the line remains open. With most 911 calls, the caller's address is displayed on the emergency telecommunicator's screen and help will be sent.
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7. How does 911 respond to callers who don't speak English?

When necessary, emergency telecommunicators can add an interpreter from an outside service to the line. A non-English speaking caller may hear a short conversation in English and some clicking sounds as an interpreter is added to the call.

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8. Does 911 work with Poison Control Centers?

Yes, emergency telecommunicators can connect you with the Poison Control Center and send emergency medical assistance if necessary.

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9. What happens if 911 is called by mistake?

If you call 911 by mistake do not hang up. Tell the emergency telecommunicator what happened so he or she knows there isn't an emergency. If you hang up and the telecommunicator is unable to reach you then emergency services may be dispatched.

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10. What happens if 911 is called as a joke or prank?

Prank calls not only waste time and money but can also be dangerous. If 911 lines or emergency telecommunicators are busy with prank calls then someone with an emergency may not be able to get the assistance he or she needs. In most places it's against the law to make prank 911 calls.

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11. Why do the 911 staff ask so many questions? Don't they already know the location of the phone that dialed 911?

Verification of information is critical to ensure the right resources are sent to the correct location. We understand that asking specific, often scripted questions may seem to take a long time but typically emergency units have already been dispatched. The emergency telecommunicator may continue to ask questions in order to obtain additional details about the victim, patient or suspect. This additional information may change the response, provide a situational assessment, or provide safety updates for responders. Depending on the call type, pre-arrival instructions may be given to the caller to help the caller or others before emergency responders get to the scene.

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12. Does the 911 system accept text messages?

Text-to-911 is currently not available in Boone County nor in most of the United States. If you attempt to send a text message to 911 where text-to-911 service is unavailable, you will receive an immediate return message informing you text-to-911 is not available and advising you to contact emergency services by another means such as a voice call. Telecommunications relay services can be used by callers with hearing or speech impairments. For more information and updates regarding text-to-911 please visit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website.

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13. Does 911 accept pictures or videos captured from cell phones?

No. While this is planned for future 911 systems, the reality is that 911 centers nationally cannot receive pictures or videos over the current 911 line infrastructure. Next generation 911 systems will have this capability.

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14. What considerations should be made when disconnecting a home phone? What happens when 911 is dialed on a cell phone inside a house?

We cannot officially support a specific technology (wireline, wireless, VoIP, etc). Many people are only using cell phones today and, depending on your needs, you may or may not want to consider this option. One thing to keep in mind is the quality of cell coverage in your home. Does your cell phone work in every room? Do you have enough cell phones so that if you're not home and there is an emergency a phone is available to call 911? 911 is equipped to locate newer cell phones but older analog phones can be difficult to track. Cell phone location accuracy is constantly improving, but your location may only be reported as inside a 50- or 100-meter radius. As such, if you are in an apartment or multi-story building then 911 may not know your exact location. In this case you might consider leveraging the free-to-use Smart911 service to help responders reach you quickly.

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15. Does 911 work with Internet phone providers (VoIP)? Is location information provided?

For the most part, 911 works with Internet phone providers (commonly referred to as VoIP). However, if you are a VoIP customer we advise you check with your service provider. More information can be found on ourVoIP & 911 page.

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16. Why is the fire department dispatched along with an ambulance to medical emergencies?

Boone County Joint Communications is committed to providing the highest level of care possible and this means getting emergency personnel to you quickly. Every second counts during a medical emergency. Firefighters are trained Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and can often arrive before an ambulance. The firefighters can immediately initiate appropriate medical care to help the patient or patients until an ambulance arrives on scene.

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17. It is okay to let children play with deactivated cell phones?

Please remove the phone's battery before allowing your children to play with a deactivated cell phone. Deactivated cell phones can still call 911. In fact, 911 is the only number a deactivated cell phone can dial. Removing the battery from these phones is the only way to ensure the phone cannot dial 911.

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18. Can an individual or group tour the 911 center?

Absolutely! We welcome you to visit the 911 center. Please call (573) 554-1000 to schedule an appointment.

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19. What types of employment opportunities does Boone County Joint Communications offer?

Visit our career information page to find out about current Boone County Joint Communications job openings, including job descriptions and how to apply.

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Looking for a job?

Check out our Emergency Telecommunicator job openings and apply online.

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Boone County Joint Communications

Boone County Emergency Communications Center
2145 County Drive
Columbia, MO 65202

jointcommunications@​boonecountymo.org

Office(573) 554-1000

Fax(573) 875-1072

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