911 FAQ

General Questions

Q: What is 9-1-1?
A: 9-1-1 is a three digit telephone number you can call 24 hours a day for Police, Fire and Medical emergencies.

Q: Can I call 9-1-1 from a pay phone?
A: Yes. Using a pay phone to call 9-1-1 is free. When an emergency situation occurs, simply pick up the phone and dial.

Q: I just signed up with a new phone company. Can I still call 9-1-1?
A: Yes, but you may want to check with your new company to make sure that they have all of your correct information in the 9-1-1 database. Phone companies provide that information to the 9-1-1 database, which allows dispatchers to know where you live. Call your phone company to verify your records.

Q: Does every town have 9-1-1?
A: No, but it is available in the majority of areas in the US. All of Cass county, ND and Clay County, MN has 9-1-1 services.

Q: Can people who are hearing impaired call 9-1-1?
A: Yes. 9-1-1 is accessible through text telephones, also known as TTY’s and TDD’s, for people who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability.

Q: What happens if I call 9-1-1 and there is a busy signal?
A: Please hang up and dial 9-1-1 again. As long as your local telephone service is operating, this situation is highly unlikely. The enhanced 9-1-1 network has several back-up systems to ensure that 9-1-1 calls are answered.

Q: Can I call 9-1-1 from my cell phone?
A: Of course, but calling 9-1-1 on a cell or wireless phone is different than calling from a traditional “landline” phone. Emergency calls from wireless phones may not automatically route to the appropriate 9-1-1 center, or provide all the details that are necessary for dispatching first responders – phone number, location or recognizable landmarks. More information on cell phones

Q: Why 9-1-1?
A: It saves valuable time in an EMERGENCY. According to nationwide statistics, it can take up to 2 1/2 minutes to find your telephone directory and another 30 seconds to locate the correct number. In an EMERGENCY, 3 minutes is a long time – time that can be saved by remembering to call 9-1-1.

Q: How does 9-1-1 work?
A: When you call 9-1-1, your call is received by a trained communications specialist who takes your information. Then, the appropriate police, fire and/or medical services team located in your area is notified, and service is dispatched. Hence the term “9-1-1 Dispatcher”.

9-1-1 Dispatch Operations

Q: When should 9-1-1 be used?
A: Call 9-1-1 for police, fire, and medical service when an EMERGENCY response is needed.

Q: How do I use 9-1-1?
A: Remain calm and speak clearly. Provide the dispatcher with the following information.
** where is the location
** what is your name and phone number?
** what is happening?

While we ask these questions, we are entering the information into a computerized dispatch system. Other dispatchers can see that information and send help to you while we are still talking to you on the phone. Answering questions DOES NOT delay response. We will often keep you on the phone and obtain more information to give to the responders. For example, it often helps the paramedics on the ambulance to know to know what kind of medication the patient takes every day. The patient might have a breathing problem that is unrelated to the medication, but that information will improve the quality of care paramedics can provide. Please remain on the phone to provide additional information as requested by the dispatcher. DO NOT HANG UP until the dispatcher advises you to do so.

Q: What happens when I accidentally call 9-1-1 and hang up?
A: If you call from a wireline (aka landline) phone, your address and phone number automatically appears in the automatic number / location identification (ANI/ALI) system. You will receive a call back from our dispatch center to verify that everything is okay. If you fail to answer the phone, a police officer will be sent to your address to make sure everyone is alright.

If you call from a cell phone, your location and phone number may or may not appear in the ANI/ALI system, depending on your cell phone carrier and what type of cell phone you have. That is why it is extremely important to provide your location and phone number immediately when you call 9-1-1 from a cell phone.

Q: What if I don’t know if my problem is a real emergency?
A: Each person may have a different idea of what is an emergency. When in doubt, call 9-1-1 and the dispatcher can direct you to the appropriate agency.

Q: When I called 9-1-1, why did the dispatcher ask me all of those questions? All I needed was an ambulance!
A: In order for you to receive an ambulance, our dispatchers are required to ask a series of questions to determine the nature and seriousness of the problem. Our dispatchers are trained in the Medical Priority Dispatch System which allows them to determine who responds and how they respond. This allows for the most efficient use of the available resources, ensuring that when you have a medical emergency there are resources available to help you.

Q: If I have a problem after hours that is not an emergency, is there another number I can call beside 9-1-1?
A: Yes.

Fargo Police

Cass County Sheriff

Moorhead Police

Clay County Sheriff

Dilworth Police

Barnesville Police

Glyndon Police

Hawley Police

FM Ambulance

Red River Regional Dispatch

West Fargo Police

Q: I called 9-1-1 for an ambulance and I got a fire truck and an ambulance. Why did you send me a fire truck too?
A: Every time someone calls 9-1-1 for a medical situation, our dispatchers send resources according to protocol depending on the seriousness of the medical emergency and the location that you are in. For example, any medical emergency that involves severe difficulty breathing in Fargo gets a fire truck as well as an ambulance dispatched. All firefighters in the Fargo Moorhead area are trained first responders. Oftentimes the fire trucks are closer to the scene of a medical emergency and can get there sooner to begin assessing and treating the patient.

Technical Services

Q: How do I know if my cell phone is Phase I or Phase II compliant?
A: Consult your cell phone user’s manual. If the cell phone is equipped with a GPS chip, the the telephone is GPS compliant.

Q: I am considering buying VoIP (voice over internet protocol) service. How can I be sure my VoIP will connect to the correct 9-1-1 Center if I call during an emergency?
A: Most VoIP providers have internet web pages that contain all the information needed to evaluate their ability to handle an emergency communications. In addition, the information should be found in the contract for services.

More information on cell phones and VoIP:

TTY Calls

The Red River Regional Dispatch Center’s telephones are equipped to handle both ASCII and Baudot incoming TTY calls from deaf or hearing/speech impaired callers.

If you use a TTY, you should:
Stay calm, place the phone on the TTY and dial 9-1-1.
After the call is answered, press the TTY keys several times.
Give the call- taker time to connect their TTY.
Tell what is needed: police, fire or ambulance.
Stay on the line if it is safe and answer the call taker’s questions.

Cell Phones

Wireless 9-1-1 is divided into two phases:

Phase I- Your call will come into the 9-1-1 center with the wireless phone call back number, the carrier’s contact number and the location of the tower that received the call.

Phase II – In addition to the above information, this phase gives the 9-1-1 center a more precise geographical location, by using a Global Positioning System (GPS) built into the phone itself. Your phone needs to be Phase II compliant in order for your exact location to be provided. To determine this, consult your cell phone user’s manual. If the cell phone is equipped with a GPS chip, then it is Phase II compliant.

TIPS when calling from a cell phone:
Even though your phone may be Phase II compatible, make sure you know your exact location.
When you dial 9-1-1 from your cell phone it is instantly routed to the nearest cell phone tower and then rerouted to the nearest 9-1-1 center. Keep in mind that this initially may not be the 9-1-1 center from which you need help. After giving your location, you may be rerouted to the correct center.
You may call 9-1-1 from a cell phone that has been disconnected. However, the 9-1-1 center will not receive the cell phone number and will not be able to call you back if you are disconnected. Be sure you give your location.
If you lose contact with 9-1-1 while on a cell phone, call back.

Voice over Internet Protocol

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone service is a rapidly growing alternative to traditional phone service due to its low prices and the consumer’s ability to choose a phone number from nearly anywhere in the country.

While VoIP is an attractive option, it is important for consumers to understand the potential limitations the technology has with respect to accessing 9-1-1.

If you are considering buying VoIP service, please visit the website, www.911voip.org which was created to help educate consumers on VoIP telephone services as it relates to accessing 9-1-1 emergency services.

Emergency Management

Q: How will I be warned of a disaster?
A: In the event of an emergency in your neighborhood, first responders or police may simply go door-to-door or use public address systems to let you know if you need to evacuate or take some other protective action. There are a number of other tools that emergency officials have to provide warning.
a. News releases – If time allows, emergency officials may simply broadcast emergency information to the news media. We have methods in place to rapidly notify the media.

b. Sirens – Sirens are primarily used to warn residents of severe weather conditions such as tornadoes. If you hear the sirens you should seek shelter and tune into your local radio or television stations for emergency instructions.

c. CodeRED – CodeRED is an extremely high speed telephone communication service used for emergency notifications. Our dispatchers record the emergency information into a message and then launch a call. CodeRED then calls all phone numbers on our emergency list for the geographic area specified simultaneously and delivers the message via phone. To ensure that you receive all CodeRED notifications for your area go to CodeRED to add your information to our database.

d. Emergency Alert System (EAS) – This is another method of using radio, and cable broadcasts to warn the public of an emergency. EAS is a system that gives emergency officials and the National Weather Service immediate access to broadcast stations. Unlike standard news releases, EAS broadcasts can be issued very quickly and they can be issued on all radio, television, and cable systems, not just those with news departments.

Q: Is there a designated radio or television station that broadcasts disaster information?
A: No. In the event of an emergency we encourage you to tune in to your favorite radio or television news station for information. The major news broadcasters do a good job in providing current emergency information.

Q: I have family members and neighbors who are elderly and disabled. I worry about what would happen to them in a disaster. How will they be taken care of?
A. Disasters tend to hit the elderly and disabled the hardest. Emergency officials will do everything they can to assist people with special needs in an emergency. However, we have a limited number of emergency response personnel and it may take a while before the elderly and disabled get the support they need.

You can help the elderly and disabled get prepared by helping them develop personal support networks. These are simply networks of at least three people who are roommates, relatives, neighbors, friends, or co-workers who will help the person in an emergency. People in the network know the person’s special needs, they have their emergency contact information, and they will check on the person in an emergency to see if they need assistance.

Also, if your elderly or disabled friends and family live in a boarding home, nursing home, or adult family home, find out what the emergency plan is for that facility. What do they want you to do in an emergency that impacts the facility? What is the plan for evacuating the facility and have they practiced it?