Dialing 9-1-1 from a Place of Worship

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We all know that when dialing 9-1-1, we will be asked questions about the type of emergency, location you are at and other information needed by first responders. This usually isn’t a problem, but if you’re at a place of worship when you dial 9-1-1 you may run into questions that you don’t know how to answer. When calling for help, you will need to know how to clearly answer to the 6 W’s dispatchers will ask. We’ll show you how to provide dispatchers with all the information they need and give you some tips that will get first responders to you quickly.

Let’s pretend an incident occurred while you were in worship. You dial 9-1-1, this is what your call may sound like with a dispatcher:

Dispatcher: 9-1-1 what’s your emergency?


Caller: Someone said they put a bomb outside our church.


Dispatcher: Where are you? (The dispatcher is looking for an exact location here.)


Caller: I’m not sure of the address, it is Tacoma Alive Church on 38th Street. There is a Chinese buffet across the street. (If you are unsure, give landmarks and describe the area around it.)


Dispatcher: What happened?


Caller: Someone called a phone at the church and said they put bombs outside around the perimeter. (Give a brief description of what happened.)


Dispatcher: When did this happen?


Caller: About 10 minutes ago, around 11 a.m. (When did the incident occur, or if it is still in progress.)


Dispatcher: Who called the church? (When the dispatcher asks the “who” question, they are looking for information on the suspect.)


Caller: I’m not sure, it sounded like a male. He said he was waiting somewhere across the street to push a button. (Other valuable information if you have it is: how many suspects, description of clothing, distinguishing features, which direction they went, by foot or vehicle, etc.)


Dispatcher: Did he say if he had any other weapons besides the bombs? (The weapons question goes for the suspect as well as anyone else who might have a weapon on them, including security team members.)


Caller: No


Dispatcher: What is the welfare of those involved? Does anyone need medical attention?


Caller: No everyone is safe inside the building still.


Dispatcher: Ok, remain calm. Law enforcement is enroute to your location. 

If you are unsure of how to answer any of the questions, give as much description as possible, especially about your location.

Check around a landline phone in the place of worship for important information such as the address, phone numbers and emergency contacts.

Always remember to be brief and concise when answering questions. Rambling about the situation slows down the process of help arriving in a timely manner. Also remember to not ask too many questions, dispatchers are highly trained and only ask questions they need to send the help that you need.

Above all else, remember to stay calm. If you are dialing 9-1-1 for any reason, there is likely some stress involved but remember to stay calm and speak clearly when answering questions from the dispatcher. By doing these things, you can help ensure a prompt response from your first responders to during your time of emergency.

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