Calling 911

If you are having an emergency, dial 9-1-1

Emergency Call Algorithm

When you call 911 you will be connected to an operator that will ask:
Police, Fire or Ambulance?

If you request an ambulance you will then be connected to an Ambulance Communications Officer (ACO).

The ACO will then ask you several basic questions:

Ambulance, What is your emergency?

  • It is best at this point, to give a brief complaint; ‘There has been a car accident’ or ‘I am having a heart attack’.

Where do you need the ambulance?

  • This question helps us to gather the location information necessary to send the closest help.
  • It is very important for you to know where you are!
  • Acceptable locations include:
    • a civic address, i.e. 123 John Street
    • a nearby intersection
    • a mile marker and direction (N,S,E,W) on major highways e.g. Hwy 401 and Hwy 416
    • all of these will also require a municipality; city, town, township, etc.
  • The call taker will also, at this time, be looking for:
    • the closest major intersection
    • an apartment number and access code (if applicable).

What phone number including area code you are calling from?

  • This question is also verified by the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system and verbally verified to ensure accuracy.
  • This question is vitally important as it is the link between the caller and the 911 dispatcher. If communications were to be lost for any reason, the dispatcher will be able to call the number back and regain communications.

Is the person awake?

  • This is the first of a series of questions that will be asked by the ACO.
  • These questions are designed to help the ACO determine a ‘Chief Complaint
    • Once a Chief Complaint is determined the ACO is able to provide first aid as needed.
    • First aid can be very simple or as complex as providing CPR instructions on the phone.
  • If the person is not awake, you will be asked – Can you wake the person up?
  • If the person is not awake, you will also be asked – Is the person breathing?

  • All questions asked are used to help best determine what first aid and what resources should be sent.
    • The CACC has agreements with many Fire Departments who will respond based on certain criteria.
    • These questions help to determine if these criteria are met.
  • You will then be asked – Is the person breathing normally?
    • If the person is not breathing normally, you will be asked – Describe their breathing?

How old is the person?

  • Some first aid is different depending on the age of the patient.

Tell me what happened?

  • This gives the call taker an opportunity to get a history of the situation.

These questions will be asked on each call received at the CACC. There are more questions that may be asked depending on the person’s condition. As information is gathered it is passed on electronically to a dispatcher who, in turn, relays this information to the Paramedics.

It can sometimes be frustrating answering all of these questions but please keep in mind that we are trying to help you!

Please be patient with ACO call takers and the questions they are mandated to ask. The questioning process does not slow down the ambulance response (the dispatcher is already sending the ambulance while the call taker is gathering information). The ambulance is already on its way.
The best way to help us to help you is to listen and answer the questions being asked.