What Happens When I call 911?

Initiate call

When a person dials 911, it is routed to the correct PSAP, regardless of telephone service or municipal boundaries.

Determine Location

When a 911 call is received at Dauphin County’s PSAP, Dauphin County’s Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system interfaces with the Enhanced 911 system to display locations on a computerized map. The E911 system displays the telephone number and location information at the PSAP. 

For callers using a landline phone, the telephone number and address will be displayed automatically on the telecommunicator’s screen.  For cellular calls, the cellular telephone number and approximate GPS coordinates will display automatically.  Cellular callers are more difficult to locate, as the GPS coordinates are not always accurate depending upon the cellular phone and cellular carrier technology.  In recent years, wireless phone usage has increased in leaps and bounds. Over 80% of the 911 calls that come into the Dauphin County PSAP originate from cellular phones. It is very helpful when callers can provide details on surroundings, including nearby addresses, intersections and/or landmarks.

Technology continues to evolve in this area, in both location finding of cellular devices, and computerized mapping programs. Each evolution makes a valuable impact in the amount of time required to dispatch public safety responders to an incident. The telecommunicator must always verify location information regardless of what type of phone is being used and what is displayed on the screen, to ensure help is being sent to the proper location.

Determine the emergency

Next, the telecommunicator will ask the 911 caller questions about the emergency being experienced. Understandably, this process must be consistent and concise.

To do this, Dauphin County Emergency Communications Center (ECC) utilizes the internationally recognized call interrogation tool, created by the International Academy of Emergency Dispatch (IAED), to allow trained and certified telecommunicators to provide the same high standard of service through questions and answers, potentially life-saving instructions, and response recommendations, regardless of when the call is received or who receives it.& This enables the telecommunicator to become the "first first responder" by providing initial care even before personnel arrive on scene.

The IAED recognizes centers who routinely display outstanding protocol compliance by awarding the Accredited Center of Excellence (ACE).  Achieving an ACE recognition demonstrates the commitment of the telecommunicators to providing the best possible level of care at all times. Dauphin County EMA has been an ACE for medical since 2000, and the very first ACE for fire in the world since 2004.

Assign & Dispatch Resources

After the telecommunicator categorizes the emergency, another telecommunicator can now work to assign appropriate public safety resources. In many cases, the original telecommunicator stays on the phone with the caller, providing instructions for safety or support until help arrives.

During this phase, a telecommunicator will utilize the CAD system to notify resources like Emergency Medical Services, Police Officers, or Fire Departments of the call for emergency assistance, and key details the caller communicated when the telecommunicator asked them a series of questions earlier. This can be done via the countywide radio system or through Mobile Data Computers depending upon the call.

Resources arrive & the 911 call ends

As the public safety resources arrive to the scene, they will update the telecommunicator(s) about the emergency. Based upon those updates, additional or different resources may be required, or it may require less resources, and the telecommunicator will work with responders to determine and communicate that to other responders.

At this point, it is likely the call between the telecommunicator and the caller is ended, as the caller speaks to on scene responders.

As the incident progresses, the telecommunicator will work with responders to help communicate details to other responders, and to address the incident.

Need to call 911?

Emergency calls:  9-1-1
Non-emergency calls:  717-558-6900
Harrisburg City non-emergency calls:  717-255-3131 (follow prompts)
See more at What Happens When I call 911?

Are you interested in becoming a 911 Telecommunicator?
Please visit the Human Resources page to obtain the necessary application information.
If you have any questions, please contact the EMA office at (717) 558-6800