Dane County Government
Public Safety Communications (911)

9-1-1 Frequently Asked Questions

When should I call 9-1-1?

You should call 9-1-1 any time you believe an ambulance, fire truck, or law enforcement needs to respond immediately to a situation. If you are not sure you should call 9-1-1 to report something, call 9-1-1 and speak with one of our specially trained Communicators who can help in determining what type of assistance to send.

Will callers dialing 9-1-1 reach a recording?

Public Safety Communications (PSC) answers more than 150,000 9-1-1 calls in an average year. More than 97% of these calls are answered within 10 seconds during a typical day. However, a single incident, such as a rush hour car fire or the recent meteor sighting, may generate more 9-1-1 calls than are able to be answered as quickly as usual by on-duty staff.

In an effort to enhance our excellent customer service while meeting national standards, after three rings, callers will hear a message (English, Spanish and TTY) indicating they have dialed 9-1-1 correctly and will be answered as soon as possible. The objective of this message is to reduce the likelihood of a caller hanging up and re-dialing 9-1-1 which could further delay a public safety response (and causes 9-1-1 center staff to spend time calling the person who hung up while the caller may be talking with another 9-1-1 call-taker).

Are all 9-1-1 calls in Dane County answered by Dane County PSC?

No. Depending on their location, 9-1-1 callers in Dane County may reach any one of six Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs).

Those PSAPs are:

How can I help the 9-1-1 call taker?

Why does the 9-1-1 call taker ask so many questions?

The call taker answers a 9-1-1 call with the question "9-1-1, what's the address of the emergency?" This is the most critical piece of information we can gather. If we do not have a location of the problem, how can we send help? Other questions are asked as appropriate or dictated by Emergency Medical, Fire or Police Protocols. All questions asked by the call taker are important and are asked in such a way to gather the most appropriate information in the shortest amount of time. During emergency situations, help is usually on the way while the call taker continues to gather more information from you.

What should I do if I dial 9-1-1 by mistake?

Do not hang up! Remain on the line (even if you are unsure at first if the call went through) and tell the call taker that the call was a mistake. If you hang up prior to your misdialed 9-1-1 call being answered, the call taker must then send law enforcement and attempt to call you back. This takes up precious time that the call taker could use to answer another call that may be an actual emergency. A common misconception is that you will get "in trouble" for accidentally dialing 9-1-1. This is simply not true! Accidents happen. We understand!

What is an automated attendant?

An auto attendant is an automated, electronic system that promptly answers, greets and assists callers in reaching appropriate destinations.

View more information about the auto attendant.

What number do I call for non-emergency assistance or if I am calling from outside of Dane County?

Callers outside of Dane County may call 608-255-2345 to report an non-emergency or 608-266-4920 to report an emergency. Please consult our contacts page for a more complete list of contact information.

Can I dial 9-1-1 from a cellular telephone?

Yes (even if the phone does not have a service plan from a provider)! View our handout discussing the limitations of Cellular 9-1-1 service.

Can I dial 911 from a payphone?

Yes. Calls to 9-1-1 from payphones are provided at no charge.

Can the 9-1-1 Center communicate with the speech and/or hearing impaired? Or what if the 9-1-1 caller doesn't speak English?

All workstations in the Communications Center are equipped with Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD) that allows typed (text) communication with people who are hearing and/or speech impaired.

If a caller does not speak English, our center has access to Language Line Services that provide 24hr/day over-the-phone interpretation of over 175 different languages. The process of getting an interpreter on the phone with the caller is generally less than one minute.

Is it possible to send a text message to 9-1-1?

Yes. It is possible to text 911 in Dane County for customers of the four major wireless carriers (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon & T-Mobile), and Cricket and US Cellular. It’s very important to note, that while Text-to-911 is now available, it is not intended to replace a voice call to 911.  Our motto will be, “911: CALL IF YOU CAN, TEXT IF YOU CAN’T”. A voice call to 911 is still the quickest, most efficient way to reach emergency help in Dane County.

Internet/Digital Phones

About Internet/Digital Phones

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) also called Internet, digital, broadband or cable phone service is a rapidly growing alternative to traditional phone service. Its popularity is fueled primarily by low prices, new features and the consumer's ability to choose a phone number from nearly anywhere in the country (and sometimes, other countries). Many industry experts anticipate VoIP's growth will outpace the growth seen by the wireless industry in the last decade.

VoIP may look and appear to work like a traditional phone, but it connects to the internet not a telephone line. There are several critical factors to consider regarding the impact of this service on your ability to call 9-1-1 in an emergency. While VoIP is an attractive option, it is important for consumers to understand the potential limitations the technology has with respect to accessing 9-1-1.

Tips for Internet/Digital Phone Users (VoIP)

I have additional question(s) that have not been covered in your FAQ. What can I do to address my question(s)?

If you are unable to find the information you are looking for anywhere on our website, see our contacts page.