When to Call 911

The Durham 911 Center strives to inform the general public on the appropriate use of 911 Emergency Services. The Department recognizes that the needs of each individual situation are often unique and our goal is to meet these needs efficiently and effectively. In order to meet these goals, the DECC makes a concerted effort to provide public education for when to call and when not to call 911. Listed below are some examples of when to dial 911 and when not to dial 911. This is by no means a complete list, but is offered as a general guide.
When to Call 911
  • Any fire emergency
  • Any immediate or potential threat to life or property
  • Any medical emergency
  • Any other actual or perceived emergency
  • Any suspicious persons, vehicles or activity
  • Any type of fight or disturbance
  • Any vehicle accident
  • Child or pet locked in a vehicle
When Not to Call 911
  • Directions
  • Keys only locked in car
  • Power outages
  • Telephone information (411)
  • Telephone problems
  • Water / plumbing problems
What You Should Know When Calling 911
911 is the 1 phone number our citizens can count on for immediate help during an emergency – from a traffic accident to a life-or-death medical crisis. While many people know that by dialing that number, they can expect an ambulance, firefighters or the police, many don’t understand the importance of the questions asked during a call and how they can help dispatchers respond faster and better.
On average, the Durham Emergency Communications Center receives approximately 1,000 calls every 24 hours. These calls cover the entire spectrum of emergencies – from fire to police to emergency medical services. A common misconception is that help is not sent until the call is completed. However, the emergency dispatch goes out as soon as the telecommunicator receives the call and they update the responder en route so there’s no time delay in the response if the caller calms down and answers the questions to the best of their knowledge.
Questions Asked
The questions asked will help the telecommunicators determine the nature and severity of the emergency so they can dispatch the appropriate response. By answering the questions, our citizens will receive the most accurate response type, not to mention a faster and better prepared police officer, firefighter or EMS crew.
Police Department Assistance
On law enforcement calls, the telecommunicators will ask what is called the 5 W’s:
  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Weapons
Durham Fire Department Assistance
On fire calls, the telecommunicators need to know if the caller sees or smells smoke. They will ask if it is a vehicle on fire, and if so, is it threatening a building or structure. They will also ask questions to try and determine what caused the fire.
Emergency Medical Services
On medical emergency calls, the telecommunicators are going to ask about injuries such as the type of injury and how many people are injured. These questions help the EMS crews arrive on the scene with an idea of what they’re encountering and what they need to do the help save the injured person’s life. The telecommunicators are also going to determine if it is safe to send an EMS crew without a police escort or if police need to meet the EMS crew on the scene to ensure the safety of the crew.
Other Questions to Expect
In addition to asking specific questions about the type of emergency, the telecommunicators will also ask general questions regardless of the type of emergency. For instance, the caller will be asked to state their name, address, and phone number twice so dispatch can confirm the caller’s location and how to reach them if the phone is disconnected.
The telecommunicators will also give instructions on what to do while the caller is waiting for EMS to arrive at their location. For instance, they will instruct the caller to put away family pets, gather any medications and write the name down of their family doctor, unlock the door, turn on the outside lights, and have someone meet the paramedics outside.
Committed to Safety
The Durham Emergency Communications Center is dedicated to promoting, preserving, and protecting the safety and security of all Durham’s citizens. It is the department’s commitment to provide citizens with the fastest and most efficient response to emergency calls possible while insuring the safety of police, fire, and EMS personnel. Remember, by remaining calm and answering the specific questions asked by the telecommunicators, residents will receive the most accurate response type, not to mention a faster and better prepared police officer, firefighter or EMS crew.
Community Feedback
The DECC recognizes that community feedback is a key component in assuring the effective and efficient delivery of services to the community it serves. If you have positive feedback for our agency, we would appreciate hearing from you. Conversely, if we don’t provide you with quality service, we’d like to know how to improve.

Please fill out this Customer Service Survey with your comments and/or concerns. We value this feedback and encourage all citizens to provide us with any feedback they wish to share.

More Information
For more information, please email James T. Soukup or call 919-560-4500.