Welcome to the County of Berks

‚ÄčWhat is 9-1-1?

9-1-1 is the number most people in the US and some in International countries call to get help in a police, fire or medical emergency.  A 9-1-1 call goes over dedicated networks to the appropriate 9-1-1 answering point (PSAP) for the caller's location, and trained personnel then send the emergency help needed.

What is Enhanced 9-1-1?

Enhanced 9-1-1, or E9-1-1, is a system that routes an emergency call to the appropriate 9-1-1 answering point (PSAP) for the caller's location, AND automatically displays the caller's phone number and address.  The 9-1-1 call taker will typically ask the caller to verify the information, which appears on his or her computer screen.  In most areas, phone number and location information is available for 9-1-1 calls made from a cellular/wireless phone.

Who pays for 9-1-1?

Each household and business pays a small monthly fee for 9-1-1 service that appears on their phone bill.  There is no per-call charge for calling 9-1-1.  However, EMS agencies dispatched through 9-1-1 may charge for taking someone to the hospital; this is a separate ambulance charge, not a 9-1-1 charge.

When should you use 9-1-1?

9-1-1 is only to be used in emergency situations.  An emergency situation is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police, fire department or 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 call taker determine if you need emergency assistance.

Do not call 9-1-1:

  • for information
  • for directory assistance
  • when you're bored and just want to talk
  • for paying traffic tickets
  • for your pet
  • as a prank

If you call 9-1-1 by mistake, do not hang up.  Tell the call-taker what happened so they know there really isn't an emergency.

What about 9-1-1 prank calls?

It's a prank call when someone calls 9-1-1 for a joke, or calls 9-1-1 and hangs up.  Prank calls not only waste time and money but can also be dangerous.  If 9-1-1 lines or call takers are busy with prank calls, someone with a real emergency may not be able to get the help they need.  It is against the law to make prank 9-1-1 calls.

How do I make a 9-1-1 call?

  • In an emergency, dial 9-1-1 on your phone.  It's a free call.  You can use any kind of phone: push button, rotary, cellular/wireless, cordless or payphone.
  • Stay calm, and when the call taker answers, provide the address of where the emergency is.
  • The call taker will ask you what township, borough or city that the emergency is in.
  • The call taker will ask you what your emergency is.  Describe to the best of your ability the reason you are calling 9-1-1.  For example, is there a vehicle accident, is someone sick or injured, is there a fire next door, or is a police officer needed?
  • Speak loudly and clearly.  Give the call taker your name and phone number along with your relationship to the reason for the call.  For example, are you someone passing by and saw the emergency, are you a family member or friend of the patient, or are you a witness to a crime that was committed?
  • Answer the call takers' questions and remain on the telephone if it's safe to do so.  Do not hang up until the call-taker tells you to.

What if a 9-1-1 caller doesn't speak English?

When necessary, a 9-1-1 call taker can add an interpreter from an outside service to the line.  A non-English speaking caller may hear a short conversation in English and some clicking sounds as the interpreter is added to the line.

What if a 9-1-1 caller is Deaf, or hearing/speech impaired?
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9-1-1 call takers are trained to answer emergency calls from persons who are deaf, deaf/blind, hard of hearing or speech impaired.  If you use a TTY/TDD, you should:

  • Stay calm, using your TTY dial 9-1-1.
  • Give the call taker time to connect their TTY.  If necessary, press the TTY keys again.  The 9-1-1 call taker should answer and type "GA" for Go Ahead.
  • Tell what type of help is needed; police, fire department, or ambulance.  Give your name, phone number and the address or location where help is needed.
  • Stay on the telephone if it is safe.  Answer the call taker's questions.
Berks County 911 also has technology in place to receive text messages through cell phone providers.  Although it is preferred to call 911, the capability exists to text 911 in the event that you cannot call.  We encourage those individuals with special needs such as the deaf, hearing or speech impaired to text 911 in lieu of calling 911 to ensure that your emergency is handled promptly.

Information courtesy of the National Emergency Number Association (http://www.nena.org)