Calling 9-1-1 on campus


Cell Phones – A cell phone is a great tool to have in an emergency – you can make a call right where you are instead of looking for a phone, saving valuable time that could potentially mean the difference between life and death or catching a criminal. However, many people have a false sense of security when it comes to emergencies and wireless phones.

The University Police Department wants to make sure you know how to use your cell phone effectively when making an emergency call to 9-1-1.

When you call 9-1-1 from a “regular” (landline) phone from a University building, the University Police Department’s Communication Center will answer the call, and will receive your call back number and location. When you call 9-1-1 from a cell phone, the Dane County 9-1-1 Center will receive the call. They have the technology to receive your cell phone call back number and location information. However, cellular technology for 9-1-1 centers is not yet perfect. The information gives only a basic location, which could be a building address (600 Highland Ave) or an intersection, and does not give room numbers or floor. So for example, if you are calling from the 4th floor of a building, the dispatcher may be able to determine which building you are in, but will not know where in that building.

For this reason, always make sure you can give an accurate description of your location. If you are traveling, pay attention to what highway/street you’re on, your direction of travel, what exits/crossroads you may have passed recently, and any other landmarks you’ve seen. If you’re on campus, know what street you’re on or what building and room number you’re in, or your distance from any landmark that could assist in determining your exact location. In either case, always pay attention to where you are – knowing your location could save your or someone else’s life.

Landline Phones – There are always questions regarding the need to dial a “9” before dialing 9-1-1 on campus. To reach the University Police Department’s Communication Center in an emergency, you can dial 9-1-1, 9-9-1-1, or 8-9-1-1. All of these options will ring in to the Communication Center when called from a University-owned building (if calling from a non-University owned building they will go the Dane County Communication Center).

The concern some people have when calling in an emergency is the delay heard during the connection. Any time you dial 9-1-1 there will be a slight delay while the phone system determines which Public Safety Answering Point (Communication Center) should receive the call. On campus, accessing an outside line before dialing 9-1-1 is the fastest way to get connected (9-9-1-1). If you do not dial two “9”s, the system will still think the first “9” is an attempt to access an outside line. When you dial the first “1,” the system thinks you want to make a long distance call. When you dial the second “1,” it figures out that you are trying to make an emergency call, but you hear dead air for a few seconds while it determines where to send your call.

If you are making an international call and dial 9, then 1, and pause before dialing the next number, the phone may also ring in to the Communication Center. If this happens please stay on the line and answer the dispatcher’s questions so they are able to determine if a police response is needed.

LeAnn Kreig, Police Communications Supervisor