The Imperial County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Center handles dispatch duties for the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office, Animal Control, County Probation, County Fire and medical aid.

911 Frequently Asked Questions

911 is an emergency response service provided by the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office to assist the citizens of our county with receiving law enforcement, fire, and ambulance assistance during crisis times.  Sheriff’s Office Public Safety Dispatchers man special emergency phone lines 24 hours a day so that the citizens of Imperial County may receive help as expeditiously as possible.  At the same time as they answer 911 calls, Sheriff’s Office Public Safety Dispatchers also answer non-emergency calls on regular phone lines.

When should I call 911?

911 Emergency calls should be made only in cases such as a crime in progress, a fire, a medical emergency or similar threatening cases. A possible 911 situation can involve something you see – a burglar breaking in to a neighbor’s house, a fire or an automobile accident.  It can also involve what you hear – a woman screaming or yelling, “Don’t hit me again”, gunfire, an explosion or glass breaking.

Is calling 911 when you do not really have an emergency a crime?

YES.  According to California Penal Code 653x, it is a misdemeanor to dial 911 unless you are doing so to report a true emergency.

When should I NOT call 911?

  • To get a Telephone Number:  Call information (411) or check the telephone book.
  • To report a Power or Cable Outage:  Call your local power or cable company.
  • To get Weather Information: Contact the National Weather Service recording at 352-3360.
  • To get Road Conditions:  Contact the California Highway Patrol Automated Road and Weather Advisory at 482-2555 or (800) 427-7623.
  • To get information about School Closings: Check for closures on major television and radio stations or contact the school.
  • To get Directions or an Address: Most streets and maps can be found online using a web site such as Google Maps or Map Quest.
  • To get Household or Automobile Repairs: Contact a repair service of your choice
  • To get Legal Advice: Check the phone book under Legal Services
  • To report an Injured Domestic Animal: Contact a local veterinarian or the Humane Society at 339-6291.

These calls tie up phone lines and 911 Dispatchers; this could delay them from helping someone with a true life & death emergency.

What should I expect when I call 911, and why do Public Safety Dispatchers ask all those questions?

Information helps us better serve you. Keep in mind, Public Safety Dispatchers go through specialized training to help them rapidly and accurately process your call for help.  Some of the questions are always the same:

  •  “911, Where is your emergency?” This question is necessary because the location of the emergency may not be where the caller is at.
  • “What is the telephone number you are calling from?” We need a number to call you back if the phone line gets disconnected.
  • “Is this an emergency?” Dispatchers must often deal with 911 calls for directions, weather conditions or traffic information.  This misuse of 911 is unacceptable, and has the potential of delaying true emergency calls.
  • “What is the problem? Tell me exactly what happened.”It is important for the dispatcher to determine the nature of the call in order to dispatch the appropriate resources (Fire, EMS or Law Enforcement).

Once this initial information is determined, appropriate help can be dispatched.

Though the questions we ask may sometimes seem insignificant to you at the time, they are of great importance to us in guiding the appropriate help when you need it.  Depending on the type of emergency, the dispatcher may need to keep you on the line to provide further instructions or information until help arrives.

By remaining on the line with the 911 Dispatcher and answering all these questions, am I delaying the help that I need?

NO. Be assured that while you are being asked the questions, appropriate help is being dispatched.  In many cases, the 911 dispatcher asks the questions while another dispatcher is sending help.

Why does it sometimes seem like it takes forever for help to arrive?

Often times, this is all relative.  When a person comes under extreme stress such as during a time of emergency, time can often seem to move slower than usual. Time perception can become distorted.  In most cases, first responders arrive on the scene within a short time.

Does your 911 Center have the ability to assist someone who doesn’t speak English?

YES.  The Imperial County Sheriff’s Office E-911 Center utilizes AT&T’s Language Line Service to translate 911 calls from non-English speaking callers. AT&T’s Language Line Service is capable of translating over 170 spoken languages.  With the touch of a single button, the 911 dispatcher connects the caller with this service and remains on the line taking the information as the translator mediates the call.  To see a complete list of languages that AT&T’s Language Line Service is capable of translating, click HERE http://languageline.com/main/files/Language_List_02_17_09.pdf

Tips for calling 911

Try to answer questions as calmly and clearly as possible. Remain on the phone line until the dispatcher tells you it is ok to hang up.   The more cooperative you are and the more information you provide, the faster help can be dispatched.  Remember, you are not delaying help by answering these questions.  In fact, you are ensuring that first responders have information to better help you. The more information that can be relayed to the responding deputy, ambulance or fire truck, the better and safer the situation can be managed.

It is important that you relay where the emergency is occurring.  At times, you may not know where you are at.  The dispatcher will ask you a series of questions to help you remember where you were headed, what road you took, etc.  Remember, it is your responsibility to take note of what street you are on, what cross street you are near, what mile markers you passed, etc.  Keeping your location in mind will enable the dispatcher to send help more quickly and efficiently.

Post your house numbers. Make sure that they are clearly visible and reflective at night. If you live down a long driveway or path, make sure that your house numbers are indicated at the entrance to the path. It makes it much easier for first responders to find your location during an emergency.

Gather as many facts as you can under the circumstances and write them down so you won’t forget.  When reporting a crime in progress, it is unlikely that the perpetrator will remain on scene and in one place until law enforcement arrives. Take a second look – a minute gathering more complete information may be worth the delay.  By obtaining a detailed description of the person or vehicle, law enforcement will be watching for him/her or vehicle on the way to the call and they can take action if the encounter them before arriving at the scene. If you are describing a person please note the race of the person, whether they are a female or a male, what the person is wearing, color of hair and any outstanding marks, scars or tattoos.  With a car description, a license plate number is great if you can get it or special characteristics such as dents, broken lights.  It will help responding units better identify the suspect vehicle versus just a “red car”

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