How 911 Works

How Does My Call Get to 9-1-1?
When you call from a residential or business landline,  the phone number of the phone determines which 9-1-1 center you reach. Each 9-1-1 center or Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) has an enormous list of phone numbers that are designated to come to that center.

If you call from a cell phone the procedure is slightly different since they are not associated with one fixed location. Cell phones transmit to the nearest cellular tower and from there to the closest 9-1-1 center. The 9-1-1 center is determined by the location of the cell tower. Sometimes if you are close to a county or state border, you might get the wrong 9-1-1 center in which you will then be transferred to the correct jurisdiction.
Although voice calling is the best preferred method for contacting 9-1-1 during an emergency, we understand that at times this option may not be feasible. Barry County is one of the 43 counties in Michigan that implement text to 9-1-1. To text 9-1-1, simply enter  “911” in the phone number text box and state the location of your emergency.

* If you attempt to send a text to 9-1-1 where the service is not available, you will receive an automatic “bounce-back” message that will advise you to contact emergency services by another means. 

The idea behind 9-1-1 is to: Give people a single, easy-to-remember number to call to receive help during any life-threatening situation. There is no national 9-1-1 system. The answering points and corresponding dispatch services are set up and maintained locally, usually by county, often in a joint effort between local government and any phone companies active in the area. You pay for 9-1-1 with your local taxes and through a surcharge on your phone bill.

You dial 9-1-1.

Your phone company (if using a landline) recognizes the number and routes the call to a dedicated 9-1-1 switch that sends the call to the designated PSAP for your area or your cellphone will transmit off of the closest tower and that tower will determine what PSAP it will route to.

The telecommunicator will answer the phone asking, where your emergency is, the call-back number, name, and nature of the emergency.

Depending on the emergency, the telecommunicator(s) will send police, fire, or EMS via radio to the emergency scene.  

Tips for 911

Tell the emergency operator the location of the emergency right away.
Provide the operator with your phone number (wireless or landline), so if the call gets disconnected, the operator can call you back.
To help telecommunicators and public safety personnel allocate emergency resources, learn to use the designated number in your county for non-life-threatening incidents. Barry County Central Dispatch’s non-emergency number is: 269-948-4800            
Unintentional wireless 911 calls, which often occur when auto-dial keys are inadvertently pressed, cause problems for emergency call centers. If this happens, please stay on the line and advise the telecommunicator that it was accidental and there is no emergency. A telecommunicator will often ask for your general information and location as a protocol.
Consider creating aSmart 911 profile (www.smart911.com) to enter valuable information that you may want to provide to emergency personnel. This profile is only accessible if you place a call to 9-1-1 and personnel can only view this information for one (1) hour after the call has been placed. 

“911 Wireless Services.” Federal Communications Commission, 29 June 2018, www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/911-wireless-services.