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When it’s 3-1-1… Not 9-1-1

Just a few years ago, Clark County had just one number to call to connect with their local law enforcement.  This meant that if you had a non-emergency complaint (like someone had stolen your bicycle overnight) you had no choice but to call 911 to report the crime.  Community members now can also call 311 or 360-693-3111 to reach the  same 911 dispatchers to report non-emergency issues for local law enforcement. 

Why?  Using this line helps us prioritize calls coming into the center and keeps the 911 lines open for emergencies and those that need immediate assistance! When you dial 311 you will hear a recorded message with alternate phone numbers and resources you may need. CRESA is a busy place, serving all incorporated and unincorporated areas of Clark County as the 911 answering point and dispatch center for our local law enforcement, Fire and EMS providers. The dispatchers and call takers may need to place you on hold to answer other incoming calls. Please be patient with us as the same call takers and dispatchers that answer 911 are also answering 311.

CRESA is a busy place, serving as both the 911 answering point for all of incorporated and unincorporated Clark County and is also the dispatch center for local law enforcement and fire / EMS responders. Please be patient, as the same people answering 911 emergency calls and dispatching responders are the same people answering 311.

A few guidelines to follow when deciding if you need 911 versus 311:

  • Always use 911 for any fire or medical call, no matter how minor you think the medical complaint is
  • Call 911 if your police complaints involves a gun, is a crime happening now, or a situation that requires police to prevent or stop an injury or property damage
  • 311 is the alternate number to report non-emergency law enforcement related complaints

If you are unsure, call 911 and we will get you the right help or refer you to the right resource.  

Answers to Questions You May Have:

Question: If I have a problem after hours that is not an emergency, is there another number I can call besides 9-1-1?

Answer: Yes… You can dial 311  or 360-693-3111 in Clark County.  If you have a concern about anything that is “in progress,” call 9-1-1, state the problem, the location, and a description of subjects or vehicles. We can always refer you to other agencies if we determine it is not an “in progress” emergency. Even a 5 minute delay can make the difference whether police can find the bad guy. Don’t delay; call right away!!!

Question: I called 9-1-1 and they asked me if I had an “in progress” emergency. I said “no” and they put me on hold for a long time. Why did I have to wait?

Answer: Dispatchers may need to put you on hold if you do not have an “in progress emergency. When dispatchers take “in progress” calls such as medical, (ie. cardiac arrest, choking and childbirth), armed robberies and fires, they may need to put you on hold so they can take care of priority situations. That doesn’t mean your call is not important, but some calls take priority over non-emergency calls that have taken place in the past or are not in-progress events.

Question: I called 9-1-1 for an ambulance and I got a fire truck and an ambulance. Why did you send me a fire truck too?

Answer: Every time someone calls 9-1-1 for a medical situation, dispatchers utilize medical triage software that guides your call to get you the best response for your medical emergency.  Oftentimes, a fire truck or a rescue vehicle are paired with an ambulance to get you a fast and efficient response.. Fire Crews are trained in Advanced Life Support (ALS) and Basic Life Support (BLS) treatment protocols.  Fire Crews can provide treatment prior to ambulance arrival.

A 9-1-1 Calling Guide

Calling 9-1-1 is serious business.  We want you to call 9-1-1 to receive help for emergencies, potential emergencies, or if you are not sure it is an emergency. However, if you have never had to call 9-1-1, you may be asking;

  • What happens when you call for help?
  • What should you say?
  • What does the person on the other line need to know?
  • What if you forget something?

Dispatchers are trained to pull and assess information from a caller. Expect them to guide you with questions.  They know what information they need to get first in order to ensure the right type of help arrives in a timely manner, and the best way to get the assistance you need is to answer the questions in the order they ask them.    It takes an average of 24 seconds and as long as 60 seconds sometimes JUST to confirm the location where help is needed.   Our best advice is to try to stay calm and listen and answer the questions dispatchers ask, and Know Your Location!

Here’s a quick guide to help us help You:

Let the dispatcher know what is happening. Is there a crime in progress? Is there a fire?  Does someone need medical help? This information lets our dispatchers know what type of help you need.

We want to know where the situation is occurring. Knowing your Location is critical in getting the right help as quickly as we can.  Provide an exact address if you know it and don’t forget the floor and apartment number if you are in a building.  Unsure of where you are?  A nearby intersection or landmark will help.  

When did the incident occur? It is important to know if this is an active situation so our dispatchers can prepare the first responders to know what to expect.

Let us know who is involved. We want to know if it is a family member, someone you know, or a stranger.  It also helps to know if there are multiple people involved and who they are.

If a weapon was used then let us know. Telling a dispatcher about weapons helps keep the public and first responders safe.

Tell us if anyone is injured. If someone is hurt, our dispatchers will ask you a series of questions to determine what type of care is needed.  Our dispatchers are also trained to provide medical instruction until a medic arrives.

If you speak another language or dialect tell us right away. At the push of a button, we can connect to a translator.  CRESA has translated 9-1-1 calls in more than 170 languages.  

Text to 9-1-1 is also available if it is unsafe for you to make a voice call or for individuals with hearing impairments.  Do Not use Emojis and be sure to share your location and the nature of your emergency in the first texts you send.  Remember to Call if You Can, Text if You Can’t!

Due to COVID-19 you may notice some additional questions we are asking on every call where first responders may have the opportunity to make contact with you. In order to keep both our community and responders safe, we are following medical protocols to minimize exposure and to prevent shortages in staffing.  Doing this allows us to inform our responders that additional protective measures should be taken in order to minimize exposure.

Here are the questions you can expect to hear:

1.   Has s/he had contact with someone who has or thought to have the Coronavirus?  We are trying to figure out if you, the subject or the patient has been in contact with someone who may have or was thought to have Covid-19.

2. Is there anyone at the location who has been diagnosed with or is quarantining for Covid-19?  We are asking this to determine the length of time since diagnosis or when the quarantine process started to help us determine risk.

3. Does s/he have any flu or Covid-19 like symptoms?  This would include the following:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste or smell

You will also notice that we are asking people to meet responders at the door or at the front of the facility when they arrive if it is safe to do so.  Since we know that avoiding being in close quarters with those outside our circle can also minimize our risk of exposure, you may be asked to do so.

It is important to remember the type of response is based on the emergency.  CRESA’s 9-1-1 call center receives more than 1,000 calls per day.  Not every call can or should involve emergency units traveling at high speeds with lights flashing and sirens blaring.  This type of response comes with inherent risk for the public and the first responders, but is rightly reserved for life-threatening emergencies.  Consider using 3-1-1 if your call is not an urgent life and safety call. (More on 3-1-1 Coming tomorrow)  

We hope you rarely have to call 9-1-1.  But if you, or someone else is experiencing an emergency, then keep these tips in mind.  Our 9-1-1 dispatchers will help you get the help that you need in a timely manner.  We appreciate your patience and cooperation as we work to keep one another safe.

First Call 9-1-1, Not Family!!

When seconds count, there’s no time to hesitate.  In trauma situations the first 60 minutes is known as the Golden Hour (time from when the trauma occurs to the time the patient is delivered to advanced health care intervention).  During a traumatic event, it can be easier to know when that Golden Hour starts, but in other circumstances when it’s not as clear to see what’s going on, seconds count. 

But what about those instances where there is a need for medical assistance, that aren’t trauma related?  You might be alarmed at the number of calls CRESA receives from loved ones or  caregiver of someone who needs assistance,  instead of the person that actually needs the help.  It happened in my family, and I am certain you know of someone who called a family member or caregiver first instead of calling 9-1-1. 

There could be many reasons why someone might hesitate calling 9-1-1, including denial, being too scared, not wanting to bother anyone, or worrying about the cost of medical personnel showing up at their home. 

What does it cost to call 9-1-1?

If the concern is the potential cost involved by calling 9-1-1, there is no cost in calling 9-1-1 or for Law Enforcement and Fire Departments to respond if you need assistance.   These services are all supported by local and state taxes we pay and provide these services to whomever may need them at any time. 

AMR, the ambulance service provider in most of Clark County, also does not charge for just responding.  The only cost involved is when services are provided. There is no charge for the initial evaluation.

Another way to help save time when seconds count, is Smart 911.   Smart911 provides details that could impact response the second an emergency call is placed, which could be the difference between life and death.

What is Smart911?

Smart911 is a service that allows residents to create a free Safety Profile for their household that includes any information they want 9-1-1 and first responders to have in the event of an emergency.  Then, when anyone in that household dials 9-1-1, from a phone associated with their Safety Profile their profile is immediately displayed to the 9-1-1 call taker providing additional information that can be used to facilitate the proper response to the proper location.  

How does Smart911 work? 

With Smart911, you can provide 9-1-1 call takers and first responders critical information you want them to know in any kind of emergency.

When you call 9-1-1, your Smart911 Safety Profile displays on the 9-1-1 screen and the 9-1-1 call takers can view your addresses, medical information, home information, description of pets and vehicles, and emergency contacts. You can provide as much or as little information as you like.

Smart911 is a national service meaning your Smart911 Safety Profile travels with you and is visible to any participating 9-1-1 center nationwide.

Safety Profiles can include:

  • People living in your household
  • Phone numbers associated with your family
  • Pets, service animals, and livestock
  • Medical conditions and allergies
  • Medications and medical equipment
  • Property details, layout, and utility information
  • Vehicle descriptions
  • Emergency contacts

How Can I sign up?

You can sign up for Smart911 at and create a Safety Profile for your household to give 9-1-1 valuable information about yourself, family members, your home, pets and even vehicles that will display automatically on the 9-1-1 call takers’s screen when you make an emergency call.  It’s private, and secure and you control what information is in your profile.  These details can save seconds or even minutes during an emergency.

Types of Information You Can Enter into Smart911

  • Medical Conditions                         
  • Senior and Elderly Care        
  • General Emergencies 
  • Physical Disabilities or Special Needs
  • Pets and Service Animals

The information in Smart911 goes beyond Clark County. Because Smart911 is a national service, your Smart911 Safety Profile travels with you and is visible to any participating 9-1-1 center nationwide.

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