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Community Safety Tips from Windsor Fire & Rescue Services

911: Your Lifeline

Depending on the type of telephone you use, you may need to be aware of special safety tips to ensure emergency operators can get the information they need when you call 911.

You can call 911 from your home, business, cell phone, and some telephones that are connected to a broadband Internet or cable-based system. However, there are differences in how each type of telephone service works with the 911 Centre.

Traditional telephone services provide the 911 Centre with enhanced 911 information. Enhanced 911 means that when you call 911, your address, telephone number, phone company name and number appear automatically on the emergency operator’s computer screen.

Some newer telephone technologies, such as cell phones, Internet and cable-based phones, may not provide all of the enhanced 911 features available on a traditional telephone. Make sure everyone who uses your telephone knows the special safety tips for your specific type of phone.

When to Use 911

Call 911 in any situation where someone’s health, safety or property is threatened.

When It Isn’t an Emergency

If there is no immediate risk to someone’s health, safety or property, you can use a non-emergency number to ask for help.

Regardless of the telephone you use to call 911, the following tips are important for all 911 callers:

911 Safety Tips

  • If you are reporting an emergency, make sure you are in a safe location before you call 911. If there is a fire in your home, evacuate your family and then call 911 from a safe location.
  • Teach everyone in your family to call 911 for emergencies only. Make sure children know when they should and should not call 911.
  • Do not program 911 into your telephone’s speed dial function. Accidental calls to 911 delay emergency operators from assisting with actual emergencies.
  • If you accidentally call 911, stay on the line and tell the emergency operator what happened. If you hang up without speaking to the operator, they will try to call you back or may send the police to your address.
  • Listen carefully to the emergency operator, answer all questions, and wait for further instructions.

Traditional Telephones

A traditional telephone is any rotary dial or push button telephone in your home that connects to a regular telephone jack. When you call 911 from a traditional telephone, the emergency operator can see your address, phone number, phone company name and number. This enhanced 911 service means the emergency operator knows where to send help even if you are disconnected or cannot speak. The emergency operator may still ask you questions about your location to confirm the information provided by the system.

911 Safety Tips

  • If you have a cordless traditional telephone that requires charging to keep the battery working, think about placing the charging unit in your bedroom so you can quickly call 911 at night.
  • It’s a good idea to have at least one telephone in your house that does not require connection to a power outlet so that you can call 911 even when there is a power outage.

Cell Phones

In Windsor & Essex County, all of the major cell phone companies provide a version of enhanced 911 service that shows the emergency operator your phone number, the cell tower the call is going through, and the cell phone service provider’s name and phone number. However, the emergency operator cannot tell exactly where you are, so you must provide your location.

911 Safety Tips

  • If you need to call 911 while in your car, pull over and stop driving before using your cell phone.
  • The emergency operator will not know your exact location. When asked, tell the emergency operator your phone number and where you are.
  • Do not call 911 to test your phone. Every non-emergency call ties up a critical lifeline that someone else with a true emergency may need.
  • Do not pre-program 911 into your cell phone. Accidentally hitting the pre-programmed buttons ties up emergency operators.
  • Do not give old cell phones to children to use as toys. As a safety feature, many unregistered cell phones can still contact 911.
  • Contact your cell phone service provider to ask about its 911 service.

Internet-based Phones

Internet telephone services – often referred to a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or broadband – allow you to make and receive calls using a high-speed Internet connection. Many VoIP services look and function much like traditional telephone service, but there are important differences when it comes to 911 features and functionality. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) requires that any VoIP service that uses a traditional phone number, and that provides access to the traditional telephone network, must provide access to 911. The type of 911 access that must be provided differs depending on the category of VoIP service.

  • Fixed VoIP refers to VoIP services that can only be used in one location. For example, a residential VoIP subscriber will only be able to use their fixed VoIP service at home. Providers of fixed VoIP service are required by the CRTC to provide the same call routing and auto-locate capabilities as traditional telephone service.
  • Nomadic VoIP refers to voice services that allow the user to connect their telephone equipment to any broadband Internet connection, in any location. For example you may normally use your phone in Windsor, but it is possible to use the same VoIP equipment and telephone number to receive service in Toronto. This ability to roam makes it impossible for the 911, system to automatically determine the location of the caller. Nomadic VoIP service providers are required by the CRTC to implement intermediate call centres. When a nomadic VoIP subscriber dials 911 an operator at the intermediate call centre will query the caller to determine their location. Once the operator has determined the caller’s location, the 911 call will be routed to the 911 centre that serves the local area that the caller is calling from.
  • Non-Native VoIP numbers are telephone numbers that are not local for the area where the VoIP telephone service is registered. For example, a subscriber with a Windsor address may elect to use a Toronto phone number. Non-native telephone service may be fixed or nomadic. In either case, VoIP subscribers should expect 911 limitations and call-handling methods that are similar to those that apply to nomadic VoIP service.

911 Safety Tips

  • Ensure your family and visitors know what to do when they call 911, perhaps by posting a note on or near your telephone.
  • Because calling 911 may not automatically connect you to the local 911 Centre, be sure to tell the emergency operator the city from which you are calling.
  • The emergency operator may not have your location or may have incorrect location information. When asked, tell the emergency operator your phone number and where you are.
  • Do not call 911 to test your phone. Every non-emergency call ties up a critical lifeline that someone else with a true emergency may need.
  • Contact your telephone service provider to ask about its 911 service. If you are considering the use of Internet or cable-based telephone service, make sure you know if and how you will be able to reach 911 before you sign up.

Business Phones

Some businesses have phone systems that show the 911 emergency operator the company name and location of the head office but not the address from which you are calling. It’s important to tell the emergency operator your exact location when you call 911.

911 Safety Tips

  • Be prepared to provide the emergency operator with the building name and address, floor and office from which you are calling.
  • Do not call 911 to test your phone. Every non-emergency call ties up a critical lifeline that someone else with a true emergency may need.
  • Contact your office manager to ask if there is anything special that you need to know about calling 911 from your building.

For More Information

For more information on 911 safety and answers to frequently asked questions, please visit

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