- When making an emergency call during a dangerous situation, you’ll want to use as many verbal cues as possible.
- In some areas, you can text a certain number to receive help.
- If you have a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) on your phone, be sure to update your 9-1-1 address.
In the US, people are taught to dial 9-1-1 if there’s an emergency or if they’re in some sort of danger. Calling this number is one of the quickest and most efficient ways to get the help you need. But, in some dangerous situations, placing a clear and thorough emergency call isn’t possible.
In cases where you are unable to outwardly call for help without putting yourself or others in danger, there are a few ways you may be able to reach out for help.
To start, you’ll want to use as many verbal clues as possible to tip off the responders
“If you chose to dial 9-1-1 and are unable to speak normally to the operator because of safety concerns, any verbal or audio ‘clues’ you provide can be helpful,” said Lynne Houserman, vice president of emergency call handling at Motorola Solutions.
9-1-1 call centres in the US receive over 240 million calls each year and 80% of them are from cell phones. Of these calls, 30% are silent, abandoned or accidental. Because of this, Houserman said, “9-1-1 operators are trained to try to make contact with every caller and to listen to background audio to try to determine if the call is a ‘butt-dial’ or a legitimate police or medical emergency.”
“You may be asked to take some action like ‘press a number on your phone if you need help but cannot speak’ as a part of this process,” said Houserman.
But, you’ll want to silence your ringer if you’re in a situation where you don’t want someone to know you’re attempting to contact 9-1-1. She said most, if not all, call centres will call or text back when they receive a 911 call that was abandoned or had no audio.
If you live in certain areas, you may even be able to text 9-1-1 for help, too
In instances when making a call really isn’t possible at all, you can text the emergency number, depending on your location. Unfortunately, this service isn’t available in all locations right now. You can find out if the 9-1-1 centres where you live are part of the approved areas list so that you can be as prepared as possible.
“If you are unable to communicate verbally with a 9-1-1 operator because you are in a dangerous situation, you could try to text to 9-1-1,” Houseman told INSIDER. “More and more of the 9-1-1 centres in the US are adopting the technology required to process text-to-911 calls every day, but the majority have not at this time.”
If you attempt to text to 9-1-1 from an area where the service is not yet available, you’ll be sent an automatic message advising you to contact emergency services using a different method. You can check to see if the 9-1-1 centres in your area accept 9-1-1 calls by referring to the FCC’s website.
Even if your area has the text-to-9-1-1 availability, it is still advised that you use the dialling method as your primary option for assistance if you can. This is especially encouraged if you are in a situation where your time with a phone is limited, as you don’t want to run the risk of not being able to get in touch with responders.
If you have a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone, be sure to update your 9-1-1 address
Even if you’re not presently in a dangerous situation, you can prepare for one by adjusting a setting on your phone.
“If a 9-1-1 operator decides it necessary to dispatch police, fire or medical to you, determining your location without being able to speak to you is important,” said Houseman. “If you have a VoIP [Voice over Internet Protocol] phone or use your mobile phone on a WiFi network for dialling, make sure that your ‘9-1-1 address’ is always updated to reflect your current location.”
She said most service providers have instructions for how to do this on their website and if it’s not clear, a quick call to customer service can help.
Location information will automatically be sent to the 9-1-1 operator when 9-1-1 is dialed from your mobile device on a cellular network, but its accuracy may vary based on factors such as terrain, urban density, handset or OS provider, etc.
If you’re in a dangerous domestic situation, there are additional resources you can utilise
If you are experiencing domestic violence and are in need of help, you can call the 24-hour crisis line at 503-469-8620. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also chat online on their website, but it’s important to remember that internet use can be monitored.
Additional resources can be found on the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website.
Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
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