Consumer Tips

Tips for Wireless Consumers
A wireless service provider may not be able to accurately and automatically determine a 911 caller's location. As a result, when replacing your wireless phone, you should always ask about the new wireless phone's E911 capabilities. Some providers may offer incentives to encourage customers without location-capable wireless phones to obtain new location-capable phones. For example, they may offer location-capable wireless phones at a discount.

Some providers may choose to prevent reactivation of older wireless phones that do not have E911 capability, or they may adopt various other measures.

If a provider declines to reactivate a wireless phone that is not location-capable, the FCC still requires the provider to deliver a 911 call from that wireless phone to the appropriate PSAP.

Tips for 911 Calling
Consumers making a 911 call from a wireless phone should remember the following:
  • Tell the emergency operator the location of the emergency right away.
  • Provide the emergency operator with your wireless phone number, so if the call gets disconnected, the emergency operator can call you back.
  • PSAPs currently lack the technical capability to receive texts, photos and videos.
  • If your wireless phone is not "initialized" (meaning you do not have a contract for service with a wireless service provider), and your emergency call gets disconnected, you must call the emergency operator back because the operator does not have your telephone number and cannot contact you.
  • To help public safety personnel allocate emergency resources, learn and use the designated number in your state for highway accidents or other non life-threatening incidents. States often reserve specific numbers for these types of incidents. For example, "#77" is the number used for highway accidents in Virginia.
  • Refrain from programming your phone to automatically dial 911 when one button, such as the "9" key, is pressed. Unintentional wireless 911 calls, which often occur when auto-dial keys are inadvertently pressed, cause problems for emergency call centers.
  • If your wireless phone came preprogramed with the auto-dial 911 feature already turned on, turn this feature off. Consult your user manual for instructions.
  • Lock your keypad when you're not using your wireless phone. This action prevents accidental calls to 911.
  • Consider creating a contact in your wireless phone's memory with the name "ICE" (in Case of Emergency), which lists the phone numbers of people you want to have notified in an emergency.