Frequently Asked Questions

Emergency (911) Dialing Information

When should I call 911?
9-1-1 is only to be used in emergency situations. An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police/sheriff, the fire department or an ambulance. If you are ever in doubt of whether a situation is an emergency you should call 9-1-1. It's better to be safe and let the 9-1-1 telecommunicator determine if you need emergency assistance.  

Call 9-1-1

  • To report a crime in progress
  • To report a fire
  • If you are injured or suddenly become ill
  • To report a missing person, particularly a child or elderly person who may be in danger.

Do not call 9-1-1:

  • For information
  • For directory assistance
  • When you're bored and just want to talk
  • For court information
  • As a prank

When should I NOT call 9-1-1?
You should not call 9-1-1 to ask for a phone number. You shouldn’t call 9-1-1 to ask when the parade starts, or to complain about a neighbor’s loud music.  These are legitimate concerns, but are not emergencies.

What is 9-1-1?
9-1-1 is the number to call to summon law enforcement, firefighters or medical personnel in an emergency. A 9-1-1 call is transmitted over dedicated phone lines to the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for the area the caller is calling from (Stokes County). Trained emergency communication center dispatchers gather information, send emergency help and give pre-arrival instructions as needed.

What is Enhanced 9-1-1?
Enhanced 9-1-1, or E-9-1-1, is a system mandated by the FCC which routes an emergency call to the nearest 9-1-1 center closest to the caller, and automatically displays the caller's phone number and address. The 9-1-1 telecommunicator will ask the caller to verify the information, which appears on his or her computer screen. The Stokes County 911 center has been upgraded for Phase II of Enhanced 9-1-1. Most calls originating from cell phones (phones made after 2001) will display the phone number and latitude & longitude on a mapping system to pinpoint the caller's location with a 100 meter accuracy. The FCC refers to this as Automatic Location Identification (ALI). This feature currently only works with cell phones with a GPS feature that is activated.

Why do I always have to answer a bunch of questions about where I am and what my phone number is when I call 911? Doesn't your computer tell you that?911 telecommunicators cannot send you help if they don't know where you are and what's going on. Although the phone number and address provided by the 911 computer are nearly always correct, even computers make mistakes. That is why the telecommunicator must confirm that information by asking the caller. Also, many times callers are requesting help at a location other than the one they are calling from. Obviously, if help gets sent to the wrong location, there will be a delay in getting help to the person in need at the correct location. That delay might simply be inconvenient, but it also could mean the difference between life and death.

Why shouldn't I call 911 when my power goes out? I don't like just leaving a message on the power company's answering machine. I want to talk to a real person.
When you call a power company's outage reporting line and leave a message about your power being off, automated location equipment similar to that used in 911 records your account information based upon your address and phone number. So even when all you can do is leave a message, you are also leaving valuable location information to help the power company find where the problem is. The power company uses that information, regardless of whether or not you actually spoke to anyone, to plot your location in its power grid. The problem is often somewhere other than your house, and this information helps them go directly to the source of the problem. So if you call 911, and a 911 telecommunicator calls in your service request for you, the power company gets the location of the 911 center, not your house. Then that information has to be verbally collected and manually recorded into the power company database. The final result is a slower response than you would have gotten if you had used the automated system in the first place.

What should I do if my child or I dial 9-1-1 by mistake?
Don’t hang up; stay on the line! Everyone makes mistakes and there is no penalty for accidentally dialing 9-1-1. The dispatcher who answers your call will want to verify your name, address and phone number; and make sure there really is no emergency. If you do hang up, you can be sure a telecommunicator will call you right back to confirm that you are safe. If no response is received on the attempt to call you back, the police/sheriff will be dispatched.

What About Wireless Calls?
On July 1 of 2006, Wireless Phase II was successfully deployed in Stokes County.  All cellular phone providers that offer coverage in Stokes County have employed this technology. This means that when you dial 911 in an emergency from anywhere in Stokes County, the 911 Telecommunicator will know your location in just a few seconds. Your exact location will appear on a map that enables 911 personnel to get the appropriate help to you quickly in your time of need. BE CAREFUL. NOT ALL CELL PHONES ARE PHASE II COMPATIBLE. To find out if your cell phone is capable of broadcasting the phase II signal, contact your cell phone provider or visit the store where you purchased the phone. Most newer phones are phase II compatible.