When to call 9-1-1

Photo showing the 911 dispatch floor.
Dial 9-1-1 for situations involving an immediate threat to life or property.

Dial 9-1-1 for situations involving an immediate threat to life or property.

Below are some examples of calls which are appropriate for 9-1-1:

  • You are involved in, or witness, a fight/argument happening now.
  • You hear gunshots being fired in the area now.
  • Someone is breaking into your house now.
  • You are involved in, or witness, an "injury" accident now.
  • Your house is on fire now.
  • Your father is having chest pains now.
  • You are having difficulty breathing now.

There are many reasons to call 9-1-1. The common theme is a situation involving a serious threat to life or property AND it is occurring now. We understand that the situation is an emergency to you, but we must prioritize our call load to help those with life threatening situations first. If the situation is not happening now, the more appropriate call may be to the non-emergency number (503-823-3333).

If you are unsure whether your situation is an emergency or not, call 9-1-1 and the calltaker will determine whether to handle your call or refer you to the non-emergency number. The same calltakers answer both 9-1-1 and non-emergency calls. However, the calls are prioritized so that we answer 9-1-1 calls before answering non-emergency calls. This is the reason we refer callers to the non-emergency line. We must help someone with a life safety emergency before getting to someone with a non-emergency issue. If a calltaker refers you to the non-emergency line, please do not continue to call 9-1-1. If you feel your call is not being handled properly, ask to speak with a supervisor.

If you accidentally dial 9-1-1, please do NOT hang up. Stay on the line and wait for a 9-1-1 calltaker to answer your call, then advise them that you misdialed. You save the calltaker time by staying on the line and telling them your call was a mistake. When a caller dials 9-1-1 and hangs up, the calltaker is notified that a call came from your phone. They are then required to call you back to see if there is an emergency. By staying on the line to advise them you did not mean to call 9-1-1, you are allowing them to move quickly on to the next 9-1-1 call. In some cases, we may send police to ensure everything is okay. 

Do not dial 9-1-1 and hang up, assuming we will call back or send a police officer to your location. There is a chance your call did not go through or was not received at our call center. Dial 9-1-1 if your situation meets the criteria listed above and stay on the line. Our calltakers will answer your call as quickly as possible and in the order it was received. Hanging up and calling again will lose your place in line and you may now tie up two calltakers (the first may be trying to call you back while the second answers your current call).