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Crime Prevention: Know when to call 911

By By J.T. Turner
March 1, 2014 at 5:02 p.m.
Updated Feb. 28, 2014 at 9:01 p.m.


Believe it or not, a common question I've gotten over the years is when to call 911.

We all know that 911 is used for emergencies, but what constitutes an emergency?

A good definition is an incident or emergency that is occurring at the time of the call. Examples include but are certainly not limited to a crime in progress (burglary, robbery, assault, etc.), a life-threatening or potentially life threatening medical event, an active house or grass fire, etc.

If it's not an emergency but you still need assistance, you can call your local agency's nonemergency number; it will be listed in your local phone directory. In Victoria, the nonemergency number is 361-573-3221. This is used for incidents that have already occurred or one that does not need immediate attention, such as damage to a vehicle that happened earlier in the day and there is no suspect nearby.

If you do need to call 911, keep in mind the following tips:

1. Stay calm. You may go through your entire life without ever having to call 911, but when you do, chances are it will be during a stressful situation, and the adrenaline will be flowing. You may begin talking too fast or begin to stutter, so take a breath and slow down a bit so the dispatcher can get the appropriate information to get you the help you need as quickly as possible.

2. Know the location. One of the first questions the dispatcher will ask is the location of the emergency. If you know where you are, great. If not, don't panic; you can use landmarks such as schools, businesses, etc. Try to be as descriptive as possible, though. By the way, cellphones do not provide dispatch with your location.

3. Wait for the dispatcher to ask questions, then answer. Remember, 911 dispatchers are trained professionals. It may seem like they're asking a lot of questions, but in the stress of an emergency, you may forget something that's vitally important to responding units. The dispatcher knows what questions to ask in order to provide those units with the best information. Besides, while you're on the phone with dispatch, help is already on the way.

4. Follow directions. Listen to what the dispatcher tells you then follow the instruction. Many times, dispatchers have instructed callers through CPR or other first aid, which resulted in a life being saved.

5. Do not hang up until told to by the dispatcher. If you call 911, you may be talking to the dispatcher who's actually broadcasting the information to responding units. If this is the case, you may hear some clicking. The dispatcher did not hang up on you; they are simply transmitting your information.

For more information, contact Crime Prevention Officer J.T. Turner, Crime Prevention Unit, at 361-485-3808.

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