How 911 Calls are Answered

In St. Charles County, all 911 calls are initially answered by one of several police departments in the county. If you are calling for a medical or fire emergency those police agencies will transfer your 911 call to the St. Charles County Department of Emergency Communications, which dispatches all fire and EMS units throughout the county, as well as for six law enforcement agencies (three agencies and three contract departments handled through the St. Charles County Police Department).

Whether you are calling for a law enforcement, fire or EMS emergency, the professionals who answer your call are trained to keep you calm, gather the necessary information regarding the incident you are calling about, and dispatch the appropriate emergency responders and equipment. In many cases, the 911 operator will remain on the line with you until help arrives to either help keep you calm or possibly walk you through potential lifesaving steps, like CPR to administer to a victim of cardiac arrest. 

Calling 911 from a Landline or Cell Phone
One of the first questions a 911 operator will ask a caller is “Where are you calling from?” This is probably the single most important question a 911 caller is asked. If the operator knows where you are calling from, they can at least get someone on the way to check on you, even if they don’t know the exact nature of why you are calling.  

With the ever increasing popularity of cell phones, knowing where you are calling from is becoming more and more important. When someone calls 911 from a hard-wired phone a computer tells the operator the exact address where that phone is installed, which is not the case when dialing 911 from a cell phone. When someone dials 911 from a cell phone, their phone signal is bouncing around in the air, like any other radio wave, and affiliates with the closest cellular transmission tower. When a 911 operator answers the phone, he or she is given the location of the cell tower and not the location of the caller themselves. The 911 center needs to have the ability to receive a plot what is known as Phase II data to locate the caller themselves. By the end of 2015, all 911 centers in St. Charles County will have this capability.