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Calling 9-1-1

There is only one number you need to remember in an emergency: 9-1-1

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When should I call 9-1-1?

You Should call 9-1-1 . . .

  • When you have a Police, Fire or Medical emergency.
  • There is a situation that could, or does, pose a danger to life, property or both.
  • There is a suspicious activity involving a person(s) or vehicle that appears to have criminal intent.
  • Any situation that requires immediate dispatch of an officer.

Remain calm and patient while the 9-1-1 calltaker asks you questions. 9-1-1 calltakers are trained to ask specific questions that quickly determine what is wrong, and what type of assistance to send.

Please stay on the line until the calltaker tells you to hang up.

When should I call the non-emergency number?

The non-emergency number is (206) 625-5011

  • You want to report a nuisance, such as a noise or parking complaint.
  • To report a non-emergency crime - one that did not just occur, and the suspects are not in the immediate area.
  • You have questions about something suspicious occurring in your neighborhood, and you are not sure it is criminal activity.

The calltaker will determines how best to handle your call. In some cases, your information will be taken and you will get a call back from the telephone reporting unit, and your report may be taken over the phone.


Be Prepared for the following questions

  • WHERE did this occur? Did it happen on the street, inside, outside, in front or in back, etc?
  • WHAT happened?
  • WHEN did this occur? Is the event still in progress?

KNow where the emergency is occurring

  • An exact street address is best. Look at numbers posted on buildings around you. View the street signs to provide hundred-block or intersection information.
  • If you are driving, be aware of the road or highway on which you are traveling. Look for landmarks or businesses that are very near to your location.
  • It is a very good idea to post your address and phone number near your telephone. In an emergency situation is it easy to forget the most basic of information.


  • Remain calm and patient.
    Take a deep breath before speaking. Time seems to slow down when you are in an emergency. Your cooperation is essential to quickly getting help started.  
  • Briefly state the nature of the call.
    “I need to report a fire….” Or “I need to report a break-in at my home”.

Let the 9-1-1 Calltaker ask the questions

Even if the calltaker's questions seem unrelated or repetitious, let the calltaker lead the conversation and answer their questions. Calltakers are trained to gather information in a certain order to quickly assess the situation and decide what assistance is best to help you. They may need to clarify a previous answer, or may already be aware of the situation you are reporting and need to find out if you have any additional information.


  • Stay on the line until the 9-1-1 calltaker tells you they have all the information they need. In some instances, they will ask if you can stay on the phone with them until officers arrive. This is to gather additional information if the situation changes before officers arrive.
  • If it is not safe for you to stay on the phone, let the calltaker know this immediately.


  • If you misdial and accidentally call 9-1-1, DO NOT hang up! Wait until your call is answered and explain that you misdialed.
  • If you hang up, a calltaker will call you back to see if you have a police or fire emergency. If the calltaker is unable to reach you, police response will be sent to your location to check on your welfare.


Teach your children about what 9-1-1 is and when it is okay to call 9-1-1. Let them know that playing with the phone and calling 9-1-1 is a bad idea because it may cause the line to be tied up and someone who is really in trouble may not get help as quickly.



When you call 9-1-1 from a basic wireline/landline phone,
the phone number and location you are calling from automatically display on a screen at the communications center. If you are unable to give your location, the calltaker will know where you are and can send help.


If you are dialing 9-1-1 from a wireless phone carrier your location information may not be provided to emergency operators. Please be prepared to provide your exact location if you are dialing 9-1-1 from one of these phones.

    • Most cellphone calls can be traced to the nearest cell tower, but it is helpful if you can tell the 9-1-1 calltaker your specific location. Check for nearby building addresses or street signs. If you call
      9-1-1 from home but use a cellphone, your address will not be visible on the calltaker's screen.

    • Always lock the keypad when not in use to avoid accidental 9-1-1 calls. You may also want to consider deactivating any one-button function keys to dial 9-1-1, especially if you have a non-flip style phone.

    • If you do accidentally call 9-1-1, please don't hang up. Stay on the line and tell the dispatcher you misdialed.

    • Do not leave your cellphone where it can be accessed by children. Do not allow old cellphones to be used as toys; cellphones without a service plan will still dial 911.

    • Cellphones without a service plan will still dial 9-1-1.
    • Accidental misdialings from cell-phones are a growing problem, and can tie up emergency lines. Please take precautions to prevent this.

Using internet or BROADBAND (VoIP) Phone

If you are dialing 9-1-1 from a non-traditional phone carrier your location information may not be provided to emergency operators. Please be prepared to provide your exact location if you are dialing 9-1-1 from one of these phones. Before signing up for a VoIP/Broadband Phone, we encourage you to read all 9-1-1 information so you clearly understand the 9-1-1 capabilities of VoIP/Broadband Phone service.

Additional information is available on the King County E-911 Program Website


Obtain an outside line (usually by dialing “9”)
Then dial 9-1-1. Remember, your location information may not accurately display from these phones.


All 9-1-1 calls from public payphones are free. Just lift the receiver and dial 9-1-1 to be connected.


NOTE: Callers using TTY equipment must dial 9-1-1 to reach police, fire and emergency medical assistance.

To assist hearing impaired callers, every 9-1-1 phone console in the Seattle Police 9-1-1 Center is equipped with a Text Telephone (TTY) machine, and each calltaker is trained in the procedures to answer these calls. Frequent test calls are done to assure that calltakers maintain their TTY skills.


Seattle Police 9-1-1 calltakers have immediate access to Language Line Interpreters, who can assist them in communicating with callers. The 9-1-1 calltaker will connect you to an Interpreter, and they will coordinate their assistance.

To access interpreter services:

  • Call 9-1-1 and in English, state that this is an emergency (either fire or medical) and what language (or dialect) you speak.

  • The operator will conference the call with an interpreter.

  • Let the interpreter control the conversation.

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