Calling 9-1-1

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911An emergency is a situation that threatens human life or property and demands immediate attention. Each year, emergency communication centers are inundated by a number of non-emergency calls. To avoid unnecessary delays in accessing help for true emergencies, callers should not use 9-1-1 for non-emergency questions or assistance. 

In order to avoid a potential delay in placing an emergency call, the fire department recommends the following:

  • Do not place 9-1-1 calls unless the emergency situation threatens human life or property and demands immediate attention.
  • Always attempt to use a phone that is hard wired to an address, such as your home phone or place of business. This should be your first choice prior to using a cellular telephone.

When calling 9-1-1, from a landline phone, your number and address will be displayed on a viewing screen regardless of whether you have an unlisted number or caller ID blocking. This enables the emergency agency to locate you if the call is interrupted. However, it is still necessary for the dispatcher to verify the address because sometimes the phone company's database has not been updated to the correct address or sometimes an individual calls 911 for an emergency occurring at a different location. If you call 911 from a cell phone, it does not show your exact location on the computer screen but shows the general vicinity of where you are calling from via GPS or triangulation.

Within San Marcos, 9-1-1 emergency calls are first routed through the San Diego County Sheriff’s Communication Center, which serves as the Primary Public Safety Answering Point. Once the nature of the emergency is determined, the sheriff’s communication center makes an automatic immediate transfer to the appropriate agencies. This is the case as long as the caller has used a fixed phone at a residence or business and not a cellular telephone. Upon transfer, you will need to repeat your information to be sure the agency receiving the transfer has the correct location. The information that needs to be verified is: the address of the emergency, phone number, and type of emergency. It may seem frustrating to repeat the same information; however it is crucial to have the correct information so that emergency personnel can be sent quickly to the location of the emergency. If you’re not sure of your location and you are using a cellular phone, try to provide cross streets or a landmark location such as a park, school, store name, restaurant name, etc. If you are able to, call from a landline phone during an emergency.

When placing a 9-1-1 call using telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD), use the following steps.

  • Baudot Mode Only.
  • Dial 9-1-1.
  • Tap the space bar until someone answers. 
  • After your call is answered, pressing different TDD keys may help shorten the time necessary to respond to your call.

For non-emergency information or assistance, please call the fire department at (760) 744-1050, ext. 3410 (during business hours) or the sheriff’s department at (760) 510-5200.