Contact ECC - 911
Emergency - 911
911 is the number to call to get help in a police, fire or medical emergency. A 911 call goes over dedicated phone networks to the appropriate 911 public safety answering point (PSAP) for the caller's location. A trained Emergency Communications Officer (ECO) then sends the emergency help needed.
911 is only to be used in emergencies, potential emergencies or when an emergency is imminent. An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police, fire or rescue. Ask yourself the following:
- Is there a danger to life or property?
- Is there a serious medical emergency (chest pains, seizures, bleeding, etc.)?
- Is there any type of fire (building, vehicle, brush, etc.)?
- Is there any crime in progress (robbery, burglary, prowler, fights, etc.)?
- Are there any other life-threatening situations (traffic accident with injuries, stuck in high water, etc.)?
- Is the caller or someone else the victim of a crime?
If you are ever in doubt of whether a situation is an emergency, you should call 911. It is better to be safe.
Do not call 911 to do the following:
- Report electricity or other utility outages.
- Notify authorities of traffic jams.
- Inquire about government services.
- Learn general information.
When reporting an emergency please do the following:
- Remain calm
- Speak clearly
- Listen to instructions
- Answer all questions
The ECO answering 911 has been trained as to what questions to ask. Be prepared to follow the line of questioning:
- Where the situation is occurring?
- What is happening?
- When did the incident occur?
- Who is involved?
- Is a weapon involved?
- What injuries have been sustained?
ECOs ask for pertinent information first, such as address, type of call, name of caller or individuals involved. Once the initial information is obtained, additional questions will be asked relevant to the type of incident being reported. The questions will not slow down the dispatching of the appropriate assistance.
In emergency cases, information is relayed immediately to the appropriate personnel to begin responding to the incident. The ECO remains on the phone to get additional details that are then relayed to the responding units as it is gathered, in real time. The ECO will continue to assist callers by doing the following:
- Providing instructions on how to administer life saving techniques, such as CPR
- Promoting the personal safety of the caller, the victim and responding Police, Fire or EMS personnel
- Engaging in those actions that preserve evidence to aid in the apprehension of suspects
If you dial 911 by accident, do not hang up!
If you call 911 by mistake, do not hang up. Stay on the line and tell the ECO that everything is all right. If a 911 caller hangs up without stating the problem, the caller must be contacted to ensure that no actual emergency exits.
One common misconception that citizens have about dialing 911 by mistake is they will somehow get into trouble. This is not true!
If the ECO is unable to make contact to verify there is no emergency, a police officer will be dispatched if an address is available. The ECC receives more than 20,000 hang-ups each year and must attempt to call back every one of these hung-up calls.
911 Prank Calls
Prank calls, joke calls or hang-ups not only waste time and money, but can also be dangerous. If 911 lines or ECOs are busy with prank calls, someone with a real emergency may not be able to get the help they need. It is against the law to make prank 911 calls.
Text to 911
If you cannot call 911, you can now send a text message to 911 for emergency assistance within Chesterfield County and the surrounding jurisdictions, including Hanover and Henrico counties and the cities of Richmond and Colonial Heights. Please note that:
- Text to 911 service may not available in all areas of Virginia or the United States.
- Using a phone to call 911 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help.
- Texting is not always instantaneous, which is critical during a life-threatening emergency.
Text-to-911 is intended primarily for use in specific emergency scenarios for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or unable to speak or unable to make a voice call due to a medical emergency or an unsafe situation.
When using Text to 911, make sure to provide the exact location of the emergency in the first text message. If you do not receive a reply text acknowledging your message, or if you receive a reply that texting is not available, call 911 instead. Make sure that you message is a clear a possible - avoid all abbreviations or slang. Also remember that Text to 911 messages have the same 160-character limit as other text messages - make sure you send the most important information first.
Texting function should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire or emergency medical services. Please do not text and drive, send photos or videos, or copy others on the text message (Text to 911 cannot include any additional message recipients).
For more information, view the Richmond Capital Region Text-to-911 video and visit the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Text to 911 webpage.
The ECC is equipped with TeleTYpe/Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TTY/TDD) for speech/hearing-impaired callers. If a caller uses TTY/TDD, the caller should:
- Stay calm, place the phone receiver in the TTY, dial 911.
- After the call is answered, press the TTY keys several times - this may help shorten the time necessary to respond to the call.
- Give the ECO time to connect their TTY. If necessary, press the TTY keys again. The 911 call taker should answer and type "GA" for Go Ahead.
- Tell what is needed - police, fire department or ambulance - give your name, phone number and the address where help is needed.
- Stay on the telephone if it is safe and answer the call taker's questions.
If a deaf or hearing/speech impaired caller does not have TTY/TDD, the caller should call 911 and stay on the line and do not hang up, - this leaves the line open. With most 911 calls from a wire line (traditional home phone), the caller's address is displayed on the call taker's screen and help will be sent.
The ECO can add an interpreter from an outside service, Language Line Inc., to the line as necessary. This service provides over-the-phone interpretation of more than 140 languages, 24 hours a day.
A non-English speaking caller may hear a short conversation in English and clicking sounds as the interpreter is added to the line.
When 911 is dialed on a wireless (cellular) phone, a call from within Chesterfield County will be routed to the ECC based on cellular tower site location. Depending on the type of call, geographical area and other factors, your call may need to be transferred to another jurisdiction or Virginia State Police. When using a wireless phone:
- If driving, pull over or use hands-free feature.
- Know your locations such as address, landmarks, crossroads or mile markers.
If you decide to use only a wireless phone as your home phone, be prepared to answer more questions regarding caller’s information and location, as wireless phones with location technology only provide an approximate location (compared to a wired line home or work phone which gives ECOs an exact location.
Any functional, charged cell phone can dial 911, even if it has no service provider.
For additional information on cellular phone service, see Wireless E911 Services information (PDF).
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), also called Internet, digital, broadband or cable phone service, is an alternative to traditional phone service. VoIP connects to the internet, not a telephone line. When using a VoIP:
- Check your service provider's website for emergency calling features.
- If the power is out, your VoIP service may not work (consider purchasing a backup power supply).
- If you travel with your VoIP adapter, your call may not reach the correct 911 center.
- Be sure to keep your registered location current with your VoIP provider.
Local telephone service providers do not charge for calling 911 from all pay/coin phones.
The Emergency Communications Center also handles non-emergency requests for assistance and information. ECOs then dispatch the appropriate public safety personnel to handle the request.
- Incidents where a crime is not currently in progress
- Noise complaints
- Requests for information
- Traffic accidents that do not involve injuries or hazards