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How to Use 911

How to Use 911

When do you call 911?

  What will the dispatcher ask when I call 9-1-1?

Why do they ask so many questions?

What about dialing 9-1-1 in a major disaster?

What if I dial 911 by mistake?

What if I am dialing 911 from a pay phone?

What if I am dialing 911 from a cellular phone?

What if I don't speak English?

What if I am deaf or hard of hearing and I have to call 911?

What if I am calling from a Private Telephone System or PBX?
(This is a full page of Information)

Should I pre-program my telephone to dial 9-1-1?

Children and 911

Cordless phones & 911

When you should not call 911


Examples of when to call 911 are:

When you see smoke or fire.
When someone’s life and/or property are in immediate danger.
When you see a crime being committed.
When rescue or emergency medical assistance is needed.
When you are not sure, call & let trained personnel decide


Unless you need an immediate response to a fire, medical or police emergency, call the Non-Emergency number at 425-577-5656. Using the non-emergency number keeps 911 available for true emergencies.

Some examples of times when you should call 425-577-5656 are:

  • Your house or car was broken into yesterday.
  • Your runaway child has returned home.
  • You need to add additional items to the burglary report which you made last week.
  • Your car was stolen sometime overnight.
  • Someone stole your bicycle while you were at school.
  • There is an abandoned vehicle on your street


All callers are asked a standard set of questions which will help the dispatcher prioritize your call, and will provide the responding personnel with information before their arrival. The following are just some of the questions we may ask you.

  1. LOCATION of the problem:

    Where are you and where did the incident happen
    • This is important in case the phone is disconnected for some reason. Even though the 9-1-1 screen in dispatch should have the phone number and address of the phone you are calling from, the dispatcher will ask you the address where the problem is, as well as where you are calling from, to verify the information on the 9-1-1 screen. You may be calling from an address other than the one where the problem is.
    • It is important to give any building names, building numbers, apartment or condominium names and unit or suite number.
    • Be as specific as possible. Avoid using "left" and "right" as directions. This is often confusing. Instead use a direction such as "North" or "South". The best locations are specific street address or cross streets.
    Please use real language – don’t try to use lingo or slang, it will only confuse the situation. Just tell us briefly what is happening or what happened.
    a. Is anyone injured?
    b. Basic description of what occurred.
  3. TIME ELEMENT: When did this occur? 5 minutes ago, 5 days ago, last year, has it been going on over a span of time (hours, days, or weeks).
    • How many people are involved?
    • Race, sex, height, weight, clothing, hair color, facial hair, eyeglasses, hat, etc.
    • WE like descriptions from the top to bottom, outside to inside…
    • What is “Top to Bottom”? Hat, hair, facial hair? Shirt, coat, pants, shoes – top of the person to the bottom
    • What is “Outside to inside”? Coat is on the outside, shirt is on the inside, T-shirt inside that – outer clothing first then to the detailed less visible clothing.
    • DID THE PERSON HAVE A WEAPON? If so what kind
    • Was the person carrying anything?
    • Where did the person go?
  5. VEHICLE DESCRIPTION a. Color, make, model, license #, and # of doors
    b. Direction of travel

When calling 911, all you have to do is answer the dispatcher’s questions ! Stay on the phone and answer the questions as calmly as you can. Sometimes it may sound as if the dispatcher is repeating themselves with the same questions but you may give more detail the second time. There may have been something you've forgotten earlier. Please don't become irritated with them, they are trying to obtain important information and to assist you. We know anxiety is a terrible emotion, but try to remain calm when giving information.

Do not hang up until either the 911 Dispatcher or the on scene Police or Fire personnel direct you to.

WHEN GIVING INFORMATION, DON'T EDIT OR EXAGERATE! Give all the information that you have. For Example: If you don't mention that the suspect was wearing a red hat because you don't think it was important, you may be withholding the single most important identifier in apprehending the suspect.

Emergency response WILL NOT be delayed by answering the above questions. In most instances, assistance will be dispatched while you are still on the phone. By answering the dispatcher's questions, the dispatcher can relay important information to the units responding prior to their arrival. This increases the chances of a successful outcome to the call!


  • There will be a delay in receiving a dial tone. Don't flick the phone hook switch button (click button up and down), since each time it is depressed, your call reverts to the "end of the line" to receive the dial tone, resulting in further delay!
  • Wait at least one to one and a half minutes for a dial tone. It could take that long or even 5-6 minutes in a major disaster, because of the number of calls being made.
  • Please tune in the emergency broadcast station of your radio for information and updates rather than to call the police or fire departments. DO NOT CALL radio stations for updates; the less the phone lines are used, the more service there will be for emergency help.
  • In some instances, the dial tone will be eliminated from residential phones and phones that are not on "essential service". In these instances, ALL PAY PHONES will be operable, with a dial tone.
  • There is no way to tell, in advance, if the 9-1-1 screens in the dispatch center will be functioning correctly in a major emergency, so be prepared to give the dispatcher all information.
  • During a disaster, electricity usually fails. Do NOT call 911 to find out when the power will go back on.


Before you hang up, be sure to tell the dispatcher that you have dialed 9-1-1 by mistake, and that you do not need emergency help! This is particularly important if you dial from a business phone with several phone lines. Anytime the police dispatcher receives a 9-1-1 "hang-up"; the caller must be contacted to be sure that no actual emergency exists. If your business has dozens or even hundreds of phone lines, it may be impossible for the dispatcher to determine who, if anyone needs help, and an officer must then be dispatched to the address.


You may dial 9-1-1 for an emergency at any pay phone, without
needing any coins. The phone number and location of the pay
phone should show up on the 911 screen.


While we encourage people to use the cellular phones to dial 911 in emergency situations, people also need to be aware that location information does not come up on the Dispatchers screen as it does on a call from a landline phone. Technology is advancing in this field, but currently the only information displayed on the 911 screen is the cellular company provider name (i.e. Verizon or VoiceStream, etc.) and the phone number of the cellular phone. If you dial 911 from your cellular phone, we will not know where you are at; you will have to give us location information to get units to respond.

In addition, reporting over a cellular phone presents another challenge – static and interference on the line. This can lead to missed information, please be patient and understanding if the dispatchers asks you the same question more than once.

When you dial 911 from you cellular phone, you will be routed automatically to the 911 center closest to the cellular site you are using. This is not something you or we can control. With cellular “skip”, we have seen calls from as far away as Eastern Washington come into our Communications Center here in Kirkland. Be patient, you may have to be transferred to the correct Communications Center.

Do not call 9-1-1 if you only need information or directions. The business telephone numbers of local police and fire departments are listed on the front inside cover of telephone directories for easy reference – or they can be obtained by dialing 4-1-1.

The Kirkland Police Department strongly recommends that if you need to make a call from your cellular phone while you are driving that you pull of the road to a safe location before making your call. Do not allow your wireless phone to be a distraction to driving, driving safely is always priority #1!


9-1-1 allows emergency calls to be transferred to an interpreter who can interpret other languages. Interpretation is accessible from every telephone; home and business phones, coin-operated and phones equipped with T.T.Y.'s (Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf and hard of hearing).

Each 911 station in the Communications Center is equipped with a TTY machine. To access TTY or TDD, press the space bar until a response is received


While it is not against the law, we strongly advise against doing this. Automatic dialing of 9-1-1 can result in accidental calls to the 9-1-1 dispatcher. Speed dialing can malfunction, and stop working, which would delay precious response time. In addition, if you are training your children to press a one-button speed call number in an emergency, they may not know how to call for help from another phone.


Make sure your child knows the following information:

  • Name (yours and the child’s)
  • Address (including name of apartment complex and apartment number if applicable)
  • Phone number
  • Directions to your home from the nearest main road, intersection or major landmark


  • Make sure your address and phone number is posted by the family phone(s), so they can be read by anyone using the telephone in an emergency. In times of emergency, even those who have lived in their houses for 20 years have been known to forget their information.
  • Do you have a cordless phone?
    Low batteries may activate a call to 911; check batteries regularly
  • Make sure your house number is visible at night from the street and is clearly posted where your driveway joins the main road.

911 is the number to dial for the fastest possible emergency response when you need emergency POLICE, FIRE or MEDICAL ASSISTANCE in a life or death situation.

  • Do not dial 911 for information regarding area power outages , unless there is an otherwise related emergency – refer your questions to your local power provider
    Puget Sound Energy, for power issues
  • Do not dial 911 to ask for the police non-emergency number.
    It is 425-577-5656. Call 411 or operator assistance.
  • Do not dial 911 and hang-up before speaking to 911. If you do, you will be called back and a police car may be sent to your home.
  • Do not dial 911 for information, such as road or weather conditions - get a battery-powered radio and stay tuned to a local radio station.
  • Road and Pass condition Information
  • National Weather Service
  • Do not dial 911 to ask for directions - directions can be obtained over the internet if you cannot obtain the information any other way.

Police Department
11750 NE 118th St, Kirkland WA 98034

General Inquiries
For police, fire, and emergency medical services, call 9-1-1
Non-emergency incident: 425-577-5656