When should I call 9-1-1?

Don’t hesitate to dial 911 if:

1. A fire breaks out. Any fire — even a tiny grease fire in your kitchen — merits a 911 call. A fire can grow and spread rapidly, so call right away even if you think you can put out the flames on your own. 

In rural areas many agencies conduct controlled burns that may appear to be wildfires, and many farmers/ranchers burn ditches to clear grass and debris. If you are unsure if the burn is controlled or not, please do not hesitate to call 911 or the non-emergency number.

2. A medical emergency happens. Call 911 immediately for any life-threatening medical problem. These include chest pain, choking, difficulty speaking, drowning, numbness, poisoning, sudden intense pain, severe burns, a suicide threat and other serious medical problems, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians.

3. You witness a crime or possible crime. Call 911 immediately if you witness a crime in progress such as an assault, a burglary, hit-and-run, or other crime. Early reporting of a crime ensures the most accurate possible documentation and swift investigation of the crime. Please reserve 911 for immediate emergencies. For crimes not currently in progress, please call the non-emergency number, or the police directly.

4. If you’re in or you see a car crash or hit-and-run. Call 911, especially if someone is hurt or feels dizzy or unwell. For a minor fender-bender with no injuries, and no hazard to other traffic or pedestrians, you can call the non-emergency number for dispatch, or the police directly.

If it’s not an emergency, use the non-emergency number!

Misuse of 9-1-1 is a class A misdemeanor, which is the most acute of all Oregon misdemeanors. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in a county jail or a maximum fine up to sixty-two hundred fifty dollars. See ORS 165.570 https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/165.570

If you call 911

If you have to call 911, here’s what to do:

  • Know your location. “Where is your emergency?” is the first question dispatchers ask because location is the top piece of information they need to send help. That’s especially important if you’re calling from your cell phone because the dispatcher might not be able to pinpoint exactly where you’re calling from. If you don’t know where you are, look for highway mileposts, buildings, landmarks and street signs.
  • Answer the dispatcher’s questions. Dispatchers ask a lot of questions, but we have important reasons for each one. It’s not because we’re nosy. Your answers help the dispatcher determine what kind of help you need, and how much. The more detail you can give us about the situation, the better. When you call 911, it is important to focus on the dispatcher, and the questions they are asking you, not involve yourself in whatever situation is ongoing. You are often the only point of contact at an incident, and being able to give clear, accurate details, free of distraction, is a must in order for us to get the best help possible to you.
  • Follow instructions. The dispatcher is trained to help keep you safe and explain how to do first aid while help is on the way. For example, we can instruct you on how to do CPR, walk you through the Heimlich maneuver to help a choking victim, tell you how to stop bleeding, or provide other help to an injured person The dispatcher may also tell you where or how to meet a police officer, in certain situations. It is very important that you follow the dispatcher’s instructions to minimize risk to yourself or others.

Show All Answers

1. When should I call 9-1-1?
2. When *NOT* to call 911
3. Can I text 9-1-1?