The ability to reach 911 from your wireless phone has become a vital public safety tool. Wireless 911 calls also create unique challenges, however. Since wireless phones are mobile, they are not associated with one fixed location or address. The FCC is working to ensure that wireless 911 calls are transmitted with increasingly precise location information so that first responders can quickly find and assist those in need.
When making a 911 call from a wireless phone, you should:
- Tell the emergency operator the location of the emergency right away.
- Be prepared to provide the emergency operator with your wireless phone number, so if the call gets disconnected, the emergency operator can call you back.
- Remember that many emergency operators currently lack the technical capability to receive texts, photos and videos.
- If you do not have a contract for service with a service provider and your emergency wireless call gets disconnected, you must call the emergency operator back because the operator will not have your telephone number and cannot contact you.
- Learn and use the designated number in your state for highway accidents or other non life-threatening incidents. States often reserve specific numbers for these types of incidents. For example, "#77" is the number used for highway accidents in Virginia.
- Consider creating a contact in your wireless phone with the name "ICE" (In Case of Emergency), which will identify who you want to have notified in an emergency.
- Lock your keypad when you're not using your wireless phone to help prevent accidental calls to 911.
FCC Wireless 911 Rules
FCC wireless 911 rules aim to provide 911 call centers (known as Public Safety Answering Points or PSAPS) with meaningful, accurate location information so that local emergency responders can be dispatched quickly to help wireless 911 callers.
The FCC's basic 911 rules require wireless service providers to transmit all 911 calls to a PSAP, regardless of whether the caller subscribes to the provider's service or not.
Phase I Enhanced 911 (E911) rules require wireless service providers to provide the PSAP with the telephone number of the originator of a wireless 911 call and the location of the cell site or base station transmitting the call.
Phase II E911 rules require wireless service providers to transmit the location of a wireless 911 call, within certain parameters for accuracy. Under the FCC's rules, wireless providers are subject to increasingly stringent 911 location accuracy requirements almost every year through 2024.
Accidental 911 Calls
Many older wireless phones are equipped with a pre-activated 911 auto-dial feature, which can lead to accidental dialing of 911. Accidental 911 calls can cause public safety personnel and resources to be diverted from real emergencies.
You can help reduce accidental 911 calls by locking your keypad. You may also consider turning off the 911 auto-dial feature if your phone has one. Check your device settings, user manual or the manufacturer's website to learn how.