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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers




Q: What is 9-1-1?

A: Nine-one-one is the number most people in the U.S. and some in International countries call to get help in a police, fire or medical emergency. A 9-1-1 call goes over dedicated phone lines to the 9-1-1 public safety answering point closest to the caller, and trained personnel then send the emergency help needed. The public safety answering point for all of Piatt County is located in the Piatt County Public Safety Building, Monticello, Illinois.

Q: What is Enhanced 9-1-1?

A: Enhanced 9-1-1, or E9-1-1, is a system which routes a landline emergency call to the 9-1-1 center closest to the caller, AND automatically displays the caller's phone number and address. The 9-1-1 call taker will typically ask the caller to verify the information, which appears on his or her computer screen. The location is then automatically indicated on a map software program available to the 9-1-1 call taker. The Piatt County Public Safety Answering Point has provided Enhanced 9-1-1 service since 1997.

Q: What is a 9-1-1 Telecommunicator?

A: A person who is employed and trained in public safety emergency communications. The term refers to a person highly trained in a combination of emergency telephone call taking, radio dispatch communications, computer terminal operation and emergency medical pre-arrival instructions. The term "Telecommunicator" is commonly interchangeable with the job descriptions of "Call Taker" and "Dispatcher".

Q: Who pays for 9-1-1?

A: Effective January 1, 2016, in the State of Illinois all communication devices such as landline, cellular, internet telephone, and other specialized devices are to be accessed $0.87 per month and the charge is to appear on the consumer's billing statement. These surcharges are to be collected and placed into a special fund by the 9-1-1 Administrator of the Illinois State Police. Based on a funding formula, those funds are then distributed in a fair manner to all of the E9-1-1 Centers throughout the State. Piatt County is to receive payment from the State Police once a month that is to provide for the maintenance and upgrades of the equipment and software as well as the operations of the 9-1-1 System.

Q: How are you able to know my address and phone number when I call?

A: We have what is called "E9-1-1" or enhanced 9-1-1 capabilities at the Piatt County Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). That means that our computer-aided dispatch system is connected to a Regional Database that contains all of the telephone records within Piatt County. When we answer the phone, a computer display shows the billing name, address, and number of the telephone on the other end.

Q: You already know my address and phone number, so why do you ask me again?

A: Computers are wonderful, but not perfect. They do make mistakes, so we must ask just to make sure. Another possibility is that many people call from a neighbor's house, so we don't want to send help to the wrong place and waste precious time.

Q: Why do you ask so many questions when I call 9-1-1?

A: We ask questions pertaining to the location of an incident, descriptions of the victims involved, and caller information. We want to ensure that Piatt County Emergency Responders are able to locate you, so we may ask directions and or descriptions of area landmarks close to your location. We may ask questions relating to the type of call we receive. Once the telecommunicator has a clear understanding of the emergency situation, the emergency agencies for that area are dispatched. In medical emergency situations the call taker may continue to keep you on the line after dispatching the emergency responders and ask additional questions. The purpose of this is to keep the responders current of the situation and if the person's condition becomes worse, we may instruct you to begin CPR or provide other first aid measures until the emergency services arrive.

Q: Why do you ask me the same questions repeatedly?

A: We try to be as efficient and quick as possible. The only time we repeat questions is when the caller is too frantic to be understood. We understand that when a crisis occurs it's human nature to get upset. But when you scream, cry, or curse at us and we can't get the necessary information, you are just delaying the help you desperately need. Try to speak clearly and answer our questions completely.

Q: What happens when I call 9-1-1 accidentally and hang up?

A: The call taker will try to call you back. If the call taker reaches a child on the phone, he/she will ask to speak to an adult. An officer will be dispatched to the residence to verify that there is no emergency.  This is the standard procedure for the Piatt County E9-1-1 System, even if the adult assures the dispatcher that there is no emergency. This is our policy because sadly we have learned that we must assume that an emergency is occurring, and you could be under duress to instruct us to disregard the call.

Q: What happens to people that make 9-1-1 prank calls?

A: It's a prank call when someone calls 9-1-1 for a joke, or calls 9-1-1 and hangs up. Prank calls not only waste time and money, but can also be dangerous. If 9-1-1 lines or call takers are busy with prank calls, someone with a real emergency may not be able to get the help they need. In most places, it's against the law to make prank 9-1-1 calls.

Q: Why can't you just take my non-emergency call on 911 when we are both on the line already?

A: We have a designated number of incoming 911 lines for the entire county. Any major incident will cause numerous lines to ring regarding this one incident. (Large fire, major traffic accident, etc.) If we are taking your non-emergency call also on 9-1-1, that dedicated telephone circuit cannot be used by a real emergency caller.

Q: Why is the Fire Department Rescue Squad dispatched to my medical emergency when I specifically requested that only the Ambulance Service respond?

A: There are 13 fire departments and 4 ambulance agencies providing emergency service to Piatt County. Obviously that means the 4 ambulance services in Piatt County each provide coverage to large sections of the County. In most cases the fire departments, with their smaller coverage areas, can arrive first to an emergency situation. All Piatt County Fire Departments have rescue squads with medically trained first responders and EMTs who can provide medical care prior to the ambulance arrival. It is the standard procedure of the Piatt County E9-1-1 System for the call taker not to honor any request from the public to only dispatch the ambulance on a medical emergency call.

Q: When I call 9-1-1 why do the emergency vehicles respond with their lights and sirens when I specifically requested that the dispatcher not send them in that manner?

A: Occasionally the public or others request that the emergency vehicles to not use their "Lights and Sirens" in their response to an emergency call. The emergency service agencies respond in the most safe and efficient way they can to an emergency call. Those agencies utilize their lights and sirens, asking the right-a-way in traffic, to ensure the timeliness of their response as well as their safety. Each emergency agency has their own policy regarding "Lights and Sirens", thus it is the standard procedure of the Piatt County E9-1-1 System for the call taker not to inform the responding agencies of any request for "No Lights and Sirens".

Q: What if a 9-1-1 caller doesn't speak English?

A: When necessary, a 9-1-1 call taker can add an interpreter from an outside service to the line. A non-English speaking caller may hear a short conversation in English and some clicking sounds as the interpreter is added to the line.

Q: What if a 9-1-1 caller is Deaf, or hearing/speech impaired?

A: The Piatt County public safety answering point has a special computer program as part of the call taking equipment that functions the same as a text telephone (TTY/TDD) for responding to 9-1-1 calls from Deaf or hearing/speech impaired callers.
  • If a caller uses a TTY/TDD, the caller should:
  • Stay calm, place the phone receiver in the TTY, dial 9-1-1.
  • After the call is answered, press the TTY keys several times. This may help shorten the time necessary to respond to the call.
  • Give the call taker time to connect to their TTY. If necessary, press the TTY keys again. The 9-1-1 call taker should answer and type "GA" for Go Ahead.
  • Tell what is needed-police, fire department, or ambulance. Give your name, phone number and the address where help is needed.
  • Stay on the telephone if it is safe. Answer the call taker's questions.

If a Deaf or hearing/speech impaired caller doesn't have a TTY/TDD, the caller should call 9-1-1, stay on the line and not hang up. Not hanging up leaves the line open. With most 9-1-1 calls, the caller's address is displayed on the call taker's screen and help will be sent.