Following a 9-1-1 Call
Through the Process

Let's take a typical 9-1-1 call to report a suspicious person. When you call 9-1-1, computerized databases maintained by your phone company provide the phone number you are calling from and the location of the phone. If the telephone is a payphone, the database will indicate that to the dispatcher. If you are calling from a business, it indicates the name of the business. However, the information may not be accurate if you have moved recently, changed telephone numbers, or are calling from a Centrex or PBX phone. The dispatcher needs to verify your phone number and your address.

In addition to verifying your phone number and address, the dispatcher will verify where help is needed. You could be calling from home to report a suspicious person poking around next door, when your neighbor is not home. In that case, you will be asked if you know your neighbor's address. If you do not know the address, you may be asked the color of the house, the proximity of the home in relation to your home.

Questioning will follow a distinct pattern of WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHO, WHY AND WEAPONS. Additional questions will be asked to gather specific details. Now that we know where, what are they doing? Looking over the fence? Trying to force the window on the side of the house? Going into the backyard? It's all very important if responding officers are going to catch the person.

Just as soon as you answer the WHAT and WHERE, the dispatcher can enter a call and their partner can be dispatching officers. Then comes the WHO. Do you know the person? If you don't, you will need to describe them. Describing a person is not as easy as it sounds. Think of it this way--what is going to draw the eye first? The answer--larger objects and colors. If there is more than one WHO, describe one completely before moving on to the next. A good dispatcher will walk you through the description step-by-step. All additional information gathered is relayed to responding officers.

You may or may not know the WHY. If you don't, it's ok, but most people have a general feeling about what someone is up too. Do you think it's the boyfriend of the teenage girl trying to sneak in? Do you think it's a burglar trying to get in? Do you think it's the ex-husband up to no good? Let us know. You would be surprised how often you are right.

A little excited when you call in? It's OK. Just take a deep breath and relax. The dispatcher is there to help you. We just need you to help us by being our eyes and ears.


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

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