Fire 9-1-1 Process

Examples of calls for assistance from a fire department are:

  • The smell of leaking natural gas
  • A trash can on fire
  • You fell down and are injured
  • A house is on fire
  • Someone needs rescuing (Like on the side of a cliff)
  • A person is trapped in an elevator
  • Field or wildland fire
  • Injury car accident

Dispatchers follow a certain line of questioning to obtain information. For example:

  • Where is the fire?
  • What is on fire?
  • Is there anyone trapped or injured?
  • How close is the fire to another building/structure?
  • How fast is the fire burning?
  • What size is the fire?
  • Did you see anyone start the fire on purpose?
  • What did they look like?
  • Are they still there?
  • Which direction did they leave in?

We take the information and create a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) "Incident". This information is entered and viewed by the "Radio Dispatcher". The Radio Dispatcher reads the call and CAD tells them which fire units are closest to the call.

The radio dispatch may sound like this: (Note: commas are pauses)

Dispatcher - (sends out pager tones to alert the fire stations)
Dispatcher: Engine 3110, Engine 3111 report of a structure fire at 123 Loma Street, repeating, 123 Loma Street, cross of Harold Avenue, map page T21.
Engine 3110: Engine 3110 copies and responding.
Engine 3111: Engine 3111 copies and responding.
Dispatcher: Netcom copies Engine 3110 and Engine 3111 responding at 2330 hours.

Fire departments also respond to calls with Ambulances. An example of this would be an injury accident. We dispatch a fire engine because they have paramedics on-board and the fire department's response may be several minutes faster than an ambulance because they are usually closer. You may remember watching a television series that aired in the 1970's called "Emergency". This is very similar.

Please remember to listen to the dispatcher's questions and answer them as accurately as possible. When the dispatcher is entering information into the computer, there is a format they must follow. This ensures the calls sent to the radio dispatchers have uniform information that is easy to read. This also allows them to give the responding fire units on the radio the correct information in the correct order. Remember that old game called "Telephone"? We don't want to lose anything in the translation of information.


Santa Cruz Regional 9-1-1
495 Upper Park Rd.
Santa Cruz, CA 95065
(831) 471-1000

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