Frequently Asked Questions About 911

    • Why do 911 Operators ask so many questions?

911 Operators ask a predetermined set of questions in order to decipher the urgency of the situation and how best to serve you. When you contact a 911 Operator they first will ask you the address of your emergency, and secondly they will ask you the phone number that you are calling from. Additional questions will be asked pertinent to the emergency that you are reporting. Please remember that by asking questions the 911 Operator is trying to get as much information as they can to give you an optimal level of service.

    • How can I report crime tips?

The best way to report crime in your community is by contacting law enforcement. If the crime is in progress and there is an imminent threat to life or property, dial 911. If you need to report a crime that is in the past tense or would like to inform the Sheriff’s Office of a crime that may take place, dial (509) 447-3151 ext. 0 and speak with a dispatcher whom will promptly take your information

    • What’s unusual about dialing 911 from a cell phone?

Cellular companies have done an outstanding job selling safety and emergency response if you purchase a cell phone. What they don’t tell you is that dispatchers from 911 Centers around the country have a very difficult time trying to gather information from cellular callers. There are still many issues surrounding cell phones such as area coverage for all cell companies and people calling from unknown locations and not able to tell the dispatcher where they are. The telephone companies are currently not able to identify the exact location of a cell phone. In the Pend Oreille County’s 911 Center, if you call on a cell phone, the dispatcher will usually be able to determine the nearest cell tower that is sending us your call. We do not receive your address, exactly where you are, or any other details about why you are calling. Dispatcher’s will still need to ask numerous questions in order to get the correct law enforcement, fire, or medical help you need as quickly as possible. Because of our geographical area, cell coverage in this area may or may not be effective. Many of our cell callers are frustrated by loss of service, spotty and intermittent coverage, and inability to reach the 911 Center for the jurisdiction they are calling from. Unfortunately, that leads them to be transferred.

So what can you do to help yourself? Always be aware of your locations. Know what road you are traveling on, know mile markers, know crossroads, be aware of landmarks or point of interest that you can refer to. Playing games with kids in the car helps everyone be more aware of their surroundings, even when taking the kids to school everyday. Practice at giving directions, remembering to use directional phrases such as North, South, East, and Westbound. Remember to be patient and helpful. If dispatchers can’t get the information they need to send help…help will not find you.

    • How do I report a burglary in progress?
    • Can the Sheriff’s Office open my car if I have locked my keys inside?
    • Is there a waiting period before I can report someone missing?
    • I have left my spouse and am living elsewhere but I need my clothing and other items. Can the Sheriff’s Office help me?
    • Someone has abandoned a junk car on my property. Can the Sheriff come and tow it away?
    • I need to get a message to someone that does not have a phone or does not have cell coverage in your area. Can the Sheriff’s Office go to the person’s home and deliver the message?
    • My family and I are going on vacation. Can the Sheriff keep an eye on our home while we are gone?
    • I misdialed and called 911 in error and a dispatcher called me back. Why?
    • Why do I get asked so many questions when I call for an ambulance?