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The 411 on 911

Rochester dispatchers explain when you should call 911, and when you should opt for the non-emergency line.

Posted: Nov 11, 2019 5:16 PM

ROCHESTER, Minn. - Do you know when to call 911? It sounds simple, but it's not always an easy determination to make.

"One of the biggest things that we get, especially now that winter is coming, is road condition questions, weather condition questions. And a lot of people are calling 911 for that purpose," said Holly Ketzeback, a dispatcher for the City of Rochester and Olmsted County.

Ketzeback and fellow dispatcher Janelle Rosin taught a class at 125 Live in Rochester, teaching people when they should call 911, and when they should use the non-emergency number instead.

You should call 911 when somebody's life is in imminent danger, like medical emergencies, serious car crashes, armed robberies or an active shooter.

Knowing when not to call 911 helps dispatchers help the people who are in those life-threatening situations.

"We have six 911 lines. So if we have 3 of those tied up with non-emergencies and someone calls in for an emergency, it's going to roll to our non emergency line. And we recognize when that's happening because we can see them. But it doesn't mean we can get to it any quicker. So if I'm asking you, 'is this an emergency?' and you start explaining to me that your neighbors dog has been barking all day and I have to say please call back on the non-emergency line, even though it might be me answering again, it's still not taking up the 911 line. And in the meantime, someones cardiac event could've rolled over to the non-emergency line. So it is really important," said Rosin.

When you call 911, dispatchers need to know 4 things:

1. The location of the emergency.

2. The precise emergency. Example: "My father collapsed."

3. A call-back phone number.

4. The condition of the victim. Example: "The person is not breathing."

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