Calling 9-1-1

Call 9-1-1 to receive help for emergencies potential emergencies, or when you are not sure if it’s an emergency.

  • Is there danger to life, property or the environment?
  • Is there a crime in progress or did a crime just occur?
  • Does the caller or someone else have a medical emergency?
  • Does the caller or someone else need the fire department?

What Will The Dispatcher Want To Know?

  • What language or dialect you speak
  • What is happening
  • Where the situation is occurring
  • When the incident occurred
  • Who is involved,
  • Was a weapon used
  • Is anyone injured

These questions help us to send the right kind of help to you as quickly as possible. They also help us to keep our police officers, firefighters, and paramedics safe by helping them know what to expect when they arrive.

Even though we are asking you a lot of questions, we are sending help. We may keep you on the line to gather more information, even after we dispatch police, fire, or medical help to your location. Do not hang up.

What if I Call 9-1-1 By Accident?
Do not hang up. Stay on the line and tell the dispatcher that everything is all right. If you don't, the dispatcher may think that something is wrong and send a police officer.

The majority of 9-1-1 calls we receive from cell phones are the result of accidental dialing. Processing these calls can delay help for real emergencies. Become familiar with the features of your cell phone, especially the "key lock", which prevents accidental dialing.

What If I Need Help But It's Not An Emergency?
Not all calls for Police, Fire, or EMS are an emergency, but they still must be processed by our Center.  If you call 9-1-1 and the dispatcher determines your call requires response, but not emergency response, you will be transferred to the non-emergency dispatch line.  You may also call the non-emergency line directly at 415-553-0123. 



What If I Speak Another Language?
Immediately tell us the language or dialect you speak so we can quickly connect you to a translator.

San Francisco's 9-1-1 center can connect callers to an interpreter service that provides translation for over 170 languages.

What Happens When I Call 9-1-1 From A Cellular Phone?
Most 9-1-1 calls from cell phones are answered at our 9-1-1 dispatch center if you are calling from San Francisco.  The remaining wireless 9-1-1 calls, usually those made near highways, go to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) dispatch center in Vallejo, which can then re-direct the call to the appropriate agency. The dispatch center answering the phone will say the name of the center you have reached. So if you reach CHP when calling from San Francisco tell the dispatcher to transfer you to San Francisco.

Unlike 9-1-1 calls made from a home, office, or payphone, calls made from a cellular phone cannot identify the caller's specific address. It is important that you provide your location to the dispatcher when calling 9-1-1 from a cellular phone.

More information is available about dialing 9-1-1 from a cell phone in the "California Cell Phone Users" brochure (PDF), as well as the "VoIP Subscribers" brochure (PDF).


What If I Am Speech-Impaired Or Hearing-Impaired?
San Francisco provides equal access to 9-1-1 services for callers who use Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TTY). TTY users may call 9-1-1, or use the 7-digit emergency line (553-8090).

Although it is not required, TTY users can expedite recognition of their call by the 9-1-1 dispatcher by tapping the spacebar on the TTY every few seconds. Tapping the spacebar sends tones to equipment at the 9-1-1 center notifying the dispatcher that the call may be a TTY call.

9-1-1 for Families
Download some simple 9-1-1 tips for everyone in your family:

9-1-1 Tips for Kids

Request a Presentation or Tour
Department of Emergency Management Dispatchers provide presentations or tours of San Francisco’s 9-1-1 System. Click here to make a request.