Calling 9-1-1

When should you use 9-1-1?

911 is only to be used in emergency situations. An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from law enforcement, the fire department or an ambulance. If you are ever in doubt of whether a situation is an emergency you should call 911. It’s better to be safe and let the 911 dispatcher determine if you need emergency assistance.

What happens when I call 9-1-1?

When you dial 9-1-1, your call will be received by a communications specialist who takes your information. Then, the appropriate police, fire, or medical team located in your area is notified and service is dispatched.

How do I use 9-1-1?

Remain calm. Speak Clearly. Provide the communications specialist with the following information:

  • Your Name
  • Address
  • City you live in
  • What is happening

Please stay on the line with the 9-1-1 Communications Specialist until told to disconnect.

When should you use the toll free non-emergency number? 1-800-249-0911

The non-emergency number is to assist the public when the use of 9-1-1 is not an urgent request or life and property are not in danger. The non-emergency number is toll-free, and answered twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Call 1-800-249-0911 when there is no immediate danger to life or property. (Non-Emergency).


  • Animal Control calls (no threat to public safety)
  • Miscellaneous Crimes or any type of incident that has occurred at an earlier time/date that needs a police investigation and/or a report.
  • Miscellaneous calls for service where police or fire assistance would be helpful.
  • Informational requests related to police or fire activity

9-1-1 is only a telephone number. A quick response depends upon the vital information which you provide about what is happening, its location, and how well your residence and driveway is marked.

Do NOT call 911 for the following:
  • for information for directory assistance
  • when you’re bored and just want to talk to report a crime that occurred yesterday
  • for your pet as a prank

If you call 911 by mistake, do not hang up. Tell the dispatcher what happened so they know there really isn’t an emergency. If the dispatcher is unable to verify that no emergency exists, a police officer will be sent to the location.

What about 911 prank calls?

It’s a prank call when someone calls 911 for a joke, or calls 911 and hangs up when no emergency exists. Prank calls not only waste time and money but can also be dangerous. If 911 lines or dispatchers are busy with prank calls, someone with a real emergency may not be able to get the help they need.

In Michigan, it is a misdemeanor crime to make prank 911 calls.

What if a 911 caller doesn’t speak English?

When necessary, an Ottawa 911 dispatcher can add an interpreter to the call in a matter of seconds using Language Line. Language Line provides translation for more than 140 languages.
A non-English speaking caller may hear a short conversation in English and some clicking sounds as the interpreter is added to the line.

Who pays for 911?

Each household or business pays a small monthly fee for 911 service on each telephone line that appears on their phone bill. In addition, Ottawa County has a 9-1-1 millage for operations. There is also a wireless surcharge collected on cellular phones and returned to the 9-1-1 PSAP.