911 and Cell Phones

Last Updated: Saturday, June 03, 2017 Published: Monday, August 15, 2016

The Dickinson County Communications Center is a Phase 2 enabled dispatch center. This means that when you dial 911 from a cell phone, the dispatcher can see your approximate location by receiving the location of the cell tower your call is coming from. The Telecommunicator also attempts to get your exact coordinates through GPS. This process could take 20 seconds or more and the exact coordinates they receive could be about the size of a football stadium. GPS coordinates do not provide elevation, which can be critical when calling from a multi-story building.

When you call 911 from your cell phone, always assume the telecommunicator does not know where you are at and be prepared to give all address and location information for the emergency, including landmarks.

I have the GPS option on my cell phone. Does that help if I need to call 911?

Some wireless carriers have a GPS chip in the handset that provides location data, but older cell phones may not have this feature. Check with your wireless provider to find out if your phone is equipped with GPS on how to activate it on your cell phone.

Why does the call taker sometimes transfer my call to another person?

When you call from a phone installed at a residence, business or a pay phone, the phone number of the phone determines which 911 center you reach.

If you call from a cell phone the procedure is slightly different. Cell phones transmit to the nearest cellular tower and from there to the closest 911 center. The 911 center is determined by the location of the cell tower. Sometimes if you are close to a county or state border, you might get the wrong 911 center. However, the dispatchers there will direct your call to the correct center to get the help you need.