Guest Column: 9-1-1

DAVID B. SHOARDavid B. Shoar, Sheriff
St Johns County, FL

This month I would like to share with you information about an issue we often take for granted … making a call to 9-1-1 to report an emergency.

You SHOULD call 9-1-1 to report crimes in progress, an emergency that is or could become life threatening. Other examples of this are serious medical issues like a heart attack, stroke, seizure, uncontrolled asthma attack, child birth in progress or anything involving serious bodily injury.

You SHOULD NOT call 9-1-1 to report a burglary or theft that is not in progress or other non-emergency events. For that, you will find the various non-emergency numbers in the front pages of the phone book, or to contact our office, call 824-8304, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.

In St. Johns County, our office has been designated to operate the enhanced 9-1-1 system that displays the originating location for all landline calls on the dispatcher’s screen.

Most cell phone providers also send the coordinates to help identify the location of mobile calls; but, even with this advanced technology, there are important procedures the caller can follow to make the response quicker and more efficient.

Stay calm. The 9-1-1 dispatcher is well trained to gather from you the information necessary.

Answer their questions with brief responses based on the best knowledge you have available. Follow instructions, and if there is something you are not clear about or don’t understand ask to have it repeated.

Above all stay on the line until the dispatcher tells you to hang up.

As soon as your children are old enough to understand, start teaching them how and when to use 9-1-1. Be sure they know their name, address and phone number and situations where they may need to call for help — such as finding someone who won’t wake up and there are no other people around to tell or to ask for help.

Practice dialing 9-1-1 with them on a play telephone stressing they need to use a real phone if there is an emergency. Always refer to the emergency number as 9-1-1 and never nine eleven.

My office offers youth programs to include 9-1-1 usage for our children. Call our Community Services Youth Programs Deputy at 904-829-9438 for more information.

If you use an Internet based telephone, using a technology known as “VOIP” or “Voice over Internet Protocol”, like Vonage, Skype or Magic Jack, you have to coordinate the proper reporting of the physical address where you will use the service with your service provider. Keep in mind that those services, and the telephone number associated with those services, follow you wherever you have Internet access — however, if you don’t associate a physical address with your VOIP telephone number, we will have difficulty locating you in case of an emergency.

If you have ever listened to local 9-1-1 calls at Historic City News or in other media in the area, I hope you are as impressed as I am with the professional way in which our dispatchers deal with tense, emergency situations on the telephone.

Our dispatchers who handle 9-1-1 are responsible to calm the caller and assist with advice about first aid or other safety measures that must be undertaken until first responders arrive.

Thanks as always for taking the time to read my monthly column and if you have a suggestion for a future topic or any other issue involving county law enforcement please email me at

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