List of reasons to call 911 (& 7 cases when you shouldn’t)

In this blog post, we will share with you the essential list of reasons to call 911. We will also tell you when you shouldn’t call 911, what to expect when calling 911 and how to deal with an emergency. 

List of reasons to call 911

Below you find the list of reasons to call 911, examples of incidents for which help can be called on 911 according to the List of Emergency Incidents in the United States:


  • There is a collision involving a vehicle and you think somebody may be injured; 
  • A plane crashed and there are injuries;
  • You need immediate psychological support;
  • Someone is having a nervous breakdown;
  • Someone fell into a hole;
  • You think you are having an unwanted abortion;
  • Yourself or somebody else is having a heart attack;
  • An animal bit you or another person;
  • Someone is convulsing or choking;


  • Someone has a dangerous animal in their home;
  • There was an explosion;
  • There is a spill of a chemical;
  • There is a strange smell in your house that you can’t find the source of;
  • You think there is a tornado coming;
  • A person is trapped;
  • Someone is cutting down trees;
  • There was an earthquake and you are or others are in danger;
  • There is a swarm of bees following you or another person;
  • Your house or the street is flooding.


  • You think there is a suspicious or dangerous object in a public space;
  • Armed people are fighting;
  • Someone is blocking the street;
  • A speeding car just passed;
  • There are people doing car-racing;
  • Somebody is trying to extort you on the phone;
  • There are suspicious people inside the house, the school, your office;
  • Somebody has just robbed the minibus, subway, shop, etc. 
  • You lost your license plate;
  • Your partner hit you or hit your child;
  • Somebody took hostages at a site;
  • There is a case of bullying at school;
  • Someone tries to commit suicide;
  • Someone is dumping garbage in prohibited places;
  • There is a bomb threat;
  • There is a lot of inexplicable noise in a place;
  • Someone sells fireworks;
  • Someone stole a car;
  • There is a terrorist attack.


  • There is a water leak;
  • A lamp post fell;
  • There is a person mistreating animals;
  • Your street went dark;
  • Traffic lights do not work at an intersection;
  • A fence fell;
  • There is a tree about to collapse;
  • There is an uncovered sewer;
  • A street has potholes or is in poor condition. 

Do not call 911:

  • To ask for directions.
  • To request information about animal control issues, such as whether you can own a pet.
  • To find out if someone is in jail.
  • To respond to situations that are not the kind that is dealt with by the police, firefighters, or doctors.
  • To report a medical situation that is not an emergency.
  • To contact someone about community information.
  •  To make jokes or insult the operators.
  • To give false alarms.

Also, it is important to always have the telephone numbers of the corresponding relief agencies at hand for any case that requires your presence. Likewise, on the mobile phone, the names of the contacts must be accompanied by the relationship they have with you, for example, Anna (my mother), Charlie (my father), Daniel (my husband), etc.

This is so that in the event that if you suffer an accident, the medical personnel who treat you will know with greater precision who to call to report what has happened to you and about your state of health.

Another recommendation is that when making a distress call to the emergency service, keep in mind that the operator must ask you a number of questions to understand the situation and where it is happening.

Some of the questions may seem unnecessary to you, but they are important to make sure the emergency is understood. This will help ensure that the help that is needed (fire, police, ambulance, or others) will get to the right place as soon as possible.

Therefore, stay on the line as long as you can to guide the operator in helping you.

Using 911 internationally

The United States has decided to use the 911 telephone number for emergency response services. This number can be dialled free of charge from any telephone where an emergency response is required.

Calls to 911 are answered 6 to 12 seconds after you have called. In some cases, there are 5 to 6 seconds of silence on your phone before you hear someone answer, the recommendation in this part is “DO NOT HANG UP THE PHONE”.

If you do not speak a certain language, it is important that you tell the 911 operator which language you speak. The way that 911 operators help people who do not speak English differs in different parts of the United States.

An interpreter may be brought on the line, or you may be asked if you are with someone who speaks English. The goal is to give you help as quickly as possible. Learning a few English words like “police,” “fire,” and “sick” can help.

Why it is important for children to know how to act in an emergency

Sometimes we forget the importance of children’s activities in an emergency at home or at school. When they are in the care of a grandfather, if a teacher feels unwell, if mom faints … You never know when we might need her help to save someone else’s life.

What to expect when calling 911?

It is important, before calling, to make sure that there is no danger to us. For example; if we encounter a traffic accident, we will call from off the road; if we are in the car, we will leave it parked where it does not disturb and properly signposted. First, comes our security.

911 is an emergency phone, not an information phone. More than 25% of the calls received by 911 are called “inappropriate calls”, both to request some information, such as false or malicious alerts. It is important to use it properly for the good of all.

When calling, the operator will ask you a series of questions, which we must answer as precisely as possible. They will ask you for a phone number to contact again in case the call is cut off. It is very important to locate as accurately as possible where the emergency is. 

There are alternative options through which we can call 911, transmitting our location at the same time if we have GPS activated. We will explain in a concise way what happens, how many people are involved and what information they request. The more useful data we give, the more we collaborate with the care.

If healthcare is required, we will be referred to a health professional and he or she will continue to collect the necessary information to assess the severity and send the appropriate health resource. He will also guide us on the first aid that we can carry out while help arrives. You can put hands-free to attend to the person while talking on the phone.

Stay calm, think and then act. Answer all the questions, keep in mind that the professionals you are talking to are not the same ones who are going to assist you and that help is already on the way.

The importance of knowing how to act in an emergency

An emergency is an unforeseen situation that requires special attention and must be dealt with as soon as possible. The most common use of the term refers to an accident or event that occurs abruptly and that generally requires some type of action to avoid or minimize damage.

In an emergency situation, there does not have to be people in danger or injuries, but if you do not intervene quickly, there may be.

Beyond having received prior training to be able to act correctly, there are guidelines that everyone should follow if they are involved in an emergency situation:

  1.  KEEP CALM: faced with a stressful situation, it is normal for us to act impulsively and hastily. However, it is necessary to regain calm as soon as possible to be able to assess the situation and take the appropriate actions.
  1.  USE THE TELEPHONE ONLY IN CASE OF NEED: That is, to call 911,  where all emergency services are centralized. If, for example, we have already given notice to these services, they may need to contact us again to ask for more information. In case the line is busy because we are telling our acquaintances what happened, they will not be able to obtain this information.
  1. OFFER THE INFORMATION CLEARLY: The emergency services are going to ask us, fundamentally, two things:
  • What happened? It is necessary to describe what happened (a fire, a traffic accident, a fight, an injured or sick person, a robbery, etc.), giving as much information as possible about the situation: if there are people injured and how many, if are aware, if someone is trapped (for example, in a fire), etc.
  •  Where has it happened? The more information we give emergency services, the less time it will take to get to the scene. If we witness a situation on the street, it is important to give the name of the street if we know it or can see it. If not, give references to something that is known as a monument, a notable trade, etc. 

On the road, we can indicate if it is a motorway, a dual carriageway … and its name. If we do not know it, we must say from where and where we are going, how long it has been since the last town we have passed through, etc.

Final thoughts

All the indications and list of reasons to call 911 may seem obvious, but they are not always carried out correctly, since we are exposed to an event that causes stress and nerves, which we are not used to dealing with. That is why it is important to remember the first two steps to follow in an emergency situation:

  1. Keep calm.
  2. Call 911 for immediate help.

Please let us know if you have any questions or comments on the content!

FAQ on List of reasons to call 911

What are some reasons to call 911?

Some of the reasons to call 911 are:

  • There has been an accident with injuries;
  • There is a fire or flood;
  • You see a crime happening;
  • Somebody is suddenly feeling sick, showing uncommon symptoms;
  • Somebody is choking or having difficulties breathing.

When should a person not call 911?

A person should not call 911 for:

  • A minor injury;
  • To ask for information;
  • For the welfare of a pet;
  • When you don’t have an emergency. 

What are the most common 911 calls?

The most common 911 calls are related to wounds, minor injuries, chest pain, accidents, overdose or intoxication, breathing difficulties or ‘unclear’ problems. 

How do I call 911 without a phone?

If you don’t have a phone and need to call 99 you can use any other digital device you have like a computer or a tablet. 


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