Important 911 Info for Cell Phone Users

Cellular phones are a great convenience and many people use them every day, but a potential problem exists when making 9-1-1 calls. To understand the problem, lets compare the use of the standard home or office phone, and the use of the cellular phone when you dial 9-1-1 from within Story County.

The standard home or office phone calls, referred to as a wire line, will almost always come into the Story County 9-1-1 Center. If you live within the city limits of Ames, they will be answered by the Ames 9-1-1 Center. The phone instantly sends a signal to a database that provides your name, address, and phone number on a screen for our telecommunicators. They confirm with you the telephone number and address information and ask the nature of your emergency. While this telecommunicator is talking with you and getting the details necessary to assist you, the other telecommunicator is dispatching the appropriate law enforcement agency, firefighting or emergency medical services needed, as also indicated on the 911 screen. This system works well, and were able to provide you the help you need very quickly and efficiently.

When you make a cellular 9-1-1 call, referred to as a wireless call, a different situation takes place. Depending on your calling location and your proximity to a cellular tower, your call may be routed to any one of several 9-1-1 Centers.

Its even possible that your call might be routed to a 9-1-1 center outside the State of Iowa! 

A 9-1-1 Center can only dispatch agencies within their jurisdiction. Therefore, when your call is mis-routed, the operator wont have ability to dispatch emergency services to you without transferring the call. This could take precious time in getting you the kind of help that you need.

The 9-1-1 Center receiving your cellular call will only see information about your cellular service provider and the location of the tower the call is coming from, and your cellular phone number. This does not give YOUR location. Youll need to KNOW your location to give it to the telecommunicator. Be sure to tell the telecommunicator that you have an emergency. Be ready to provide a good description of your location by giving the address, nearest cross street, the nature of your emergency, and your cellular number for call back in case of a disconnect. This will enable the telecommunicator to quickly determine the proper law enforcement, firefighting, and emergency medical services you need.

The State of Iowa Emergency Management Division and the E911 Communications Council have been struggling to bring the wireless service to the same level as the wire line E911. To do so meant introducing changes to the Code of Iowa Chapter 34A, the law covering the workings of E911. It was proposed to raise the wireless surcharge from the present level of $0.50 per month, per subscriber to $1.00 per month, per subscriber. This increase would allow for the installation of Phase 2 wireless enhanced 911 service. Phase 2 gives the 911 Centers the ability to locate the caller by giving them mapping capabilities. It would also guarantee money for the local 911 Center. The proposal failed to reach the floor of the House of Representatives for debate. At this time the local Centers are only being funded by the local counties, and 911 service boards with local taxes, and wire line surcharges, with no money being received from the wireless phones.

"9-1-1" is the three digit telephone number designated in the United States as the universal emergency number.

You should call 911 for:

  • Crimes in progress or recently occurring
  • Suspicious activity or behavior
  • Fights, disturbances or riots
  • Building fires, car fires, brush fires and grass fires
  • Severe traffic accidents
  • Use of weapons
  • Any medical emergency for which immediate care is needed

You should not call 911 for:

  • Time and temperature (monitor television or radio news broadcasts)
  • Directory Assistance (call 4-1-1)
  • Dogs/Cats running at large (city residents call your city, county residents call 382-3338)
  • Broken street or traffic lights (call non-emergency 24 hr 382-6566)
  • Debris on the roadway (call non-emergency 24 hr 382-6566)
  • Loss of electricity (call 800 number for your power company)