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Learn More About The Process

What Happens When You Call 911? 

9-1-1 Call takers must be able to field hundreds of incoming calls each day, determine the best course of action, and forward that information to the appropriate resource.  

Johnson County Central Dispatch E-911 wants to help you understand the process involved in making reports, giving descriptions, and what to expect when you call 9-1-1. Our trained 9-1-1 emergency call-takers ask you specific questions for important reasons. We want to pass on some valuable information and give you tips on how to be helpful eyes and ears for our 9-1-1 dispatchers and first responders. 

When you call 9-1-1, computerized databases maintained by your phone company provide the phone number you are calling from and the location of the phone. If you are calling from a business, the database will display the name, address, and phone number of the business. However, the information may not be accurate if there was a recent address or phone number change. Locations on wireless phones are also less accurate and require verification. The call taker needs to verify the phone number and address with you. This information is verified by the 9-1-1 call taker having you state the address twice. This ensures the correct address is obtained.

In addition to verifying the phone number and address, the call taker will verify where help is needed. You could be calling from home to report a suspicious person poking around next door when your neighbor is not home. In that case, you will be asked if you know your neighbor’s address. If you do not know the address, you may be asked the color of the house, the proximity of the home in relation to your home.  

Questioning will follow a distinct pattern of WHERE, WHAT, WHEN, WHO, WHY AND WEAPONS, also known as the Five Ws of a call. 

  • WHERE?  Where are you and where did the incident happen? 
  • WHAT?  This is the nature of the problem; a brief description of what occurred. 
  • WHEN?  Time element—five minutes ago, five days ago, last year. 
  • WHO?  How many people are involved? This could be descriptions of people and/or cars. 
  • WEAPONS?  Did the person have a weapon? If so, what kind? 

As soon as the call taker has the location and a brief description of what occurred, the call is dispatched to the appropriate personnel. All additional information gathered is then relayed to the responding personnel. 


A computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system is used by JCCD 911 operators to prioritize and record incident calls, identify the status and location of responders in the field, and effectively dispatch responder personnel. All information obtained by the call taker and/or dispatcher is recorded as an incident in CAD. The incident is tracked from the time the call is answered to the moment field responders complete and clear from the incident. 


The description of a person is covered with the WHO question. Do you know the person? If you do not, you will need to describe them. If there is more than one WHO, describe one completely before moving on to the next. 

There are certain questions that a call taker will ask regarding person descriptions. These descriptions are then passed on to the responding personnel so that they can identify the person responsible for the crime.  

 Call takers will ask:  

  • Name  
  • Sex  
  • Race  
  • Age  
  • Height/Weight  
  • Scars / Marks / Tattoos  
  • Glasses  
  • Facial Hair  
  • Clothing

Call takers will typically ask for clothing descriptions from head to toe and from the outside-in.  


White male adult, late 50’s, 6’/180 lbs., long gray hair, wire-rim glasses, mustache, blue baseball cap, glasses, brown jacket, white t-shirt, blue jeans, white tennis shoes 

Fire 9-1-1 Process 

Examples of calls for assistance from a fire department are:  

  • The smell of leaking natural gas  
  • A trash can on fire  
  • A house on fire  
  • Someone needs rescuing  
  • A person is trapped in an elevator  
  • Field on fire  
  • Injury car accident 

Call takers follow a certain line of questioning to obtain information. For example:  

  • Where is the fire?  
  • What is on fire?  
  • Is there anyone trapped or injured?  
  • How close is the fire to another building/structure?  
  • How fast is the fire burning?  
  • What size is the fire?  
  • Did you see anyone start the fire on purpose?  
  • What did they look like?  
  • Are they still there?  
  • Which direction did they leave in?  

This information is entered in CAD, and the CAD response configuration will identify and recommend the fire station and units closest to the call.  

Ambulance 911 Process 

Johnson County Central Dispatch utilizes the Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS) through the International Academies Emergency Dispatch. All JCCD call takers are certified Emergency Medical Dispatchers (EMDs) by the end of their initial training. The MPDS is a systematic program of handling medical calls for assistance to determine the nature and priority of the call, dispatch the appropriate response, and provide the caller instructions to treat the patient until help arrives quickly and properly.  All questions in the MPDS serve a vital role in prioritizing calls, triaging patients, and determining the most appropriate response. 

Police 911 Process 

Examples of calls for police assistance are:  

  • Vehicle Break-In  
  • Loud Music Complaint  
  • Suspicious Person  
  • Missing Person  
  • Shoplifting  
  • Barking Dog  
  • Drug Dealing  
  • And many, many more 

Call takers follow a certain line of questioning to obtain information. For example:  

  • What are you reporting?  
  • Where did this occur?  
  • When did this occur?  
  • What is the phone number you are calling from?  
  • Where are you now?  
  • Are any weapons involved?  
  • How many people are involved?  
  • What is the specific location?  
  • Has this happened before?  
  • What is happening now?  
  • Are you hearing or seeing anything?  
  • Are there any dangerous or vicious dogs or animals in the area?  
  • Are there any hazards in the area?  
  • Do you want to be contacted by an officer? 
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