When To Call 9-1-1

You might wonder what is the difference between an emergency and non-emergency.

When in doubt, always call 9-1-1

For non-emergencies, call 503-655-8211.

Emergency calls may include reports of:

  • any emergency where life or property is in immediate danger
  • an injury requiring immediate medical attention
  • a fire (not a controlled burn pile or other controlled fire)
  • a crime in progress 
  • a serious traffic accident
  • a violent dog has attacked a person (not just running at large)
  • a driver is dangerously swerving on the road
  • someone is playing with guns

What To Expect When Calling 9-1-1

Call from a landline
Call from VOIP/computer
Call from a cell phone
Call from PBX/office

Be as calm as possible. Callers who yell are hard to understand. Try not to yell into the phone. We understand it can be very difficult to be calm during an emergency, but remaining calm and speaking clearly will get you the best help in the shortest amount of time.

When the call-taker answers your 9-1-1 call, they will ask for your address or location and if you need police, fire or medical. Be prepared to verify your address or the location where the emergency is occurring.

Call-takers will always ask to verify your address . This is a backup measure to eliminate sending help to the wrong location.

After you tell the call-taker if you need police, fire or medical help, you will be asked a series of questions. Do not argue with the call-taker, they are trained professionals and the questions they ask will get you the best help in the least amount of time.

If you are reporting a police emergency, call-takers will ask you specific questions to determine what is going on, if weapons or alcohol are involved, where any suspects may be located, descriptions of suspects and vehicles, and other details that will be relayed to responding police officers.

If you are reporting a fire emergency, call takers will ask you questions to identify what is on fire and if flames are visible. If it is a field or brush fire, they will ask if it is threatening any buildings and the size of the area burning. They may also ask you the color of the smoke or if any hazardous chemicals are involved.

The call-takers understand that if you are reporting a house fire from your house, you will not have time to answer many questions and evacuating yourself and your family is the priority. They will get help started immediately and advise you to evacuate the house.

If you are reporting a medical emergency, the call-takers will ask very specific questions related to the medical problem. Responders and paramedics need the best possible information so they bring the right equipment and the appropriate number of responders.

Calling 9-1-1 from a landline

If you are dialing from a regular home phone (aka landline) you may pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1. Dialing 9-1-1 from a landline in Clackamas County will connect you directly with a call taker.

Calling 9-1-1 from a PBX/business phone

If you are dialing from a PBX/business phone, you may have to dial 9-9-1-1 to report and emergency. If you normally need to dial 9 to get an outside line, you are probably on a PBX system. You should verify with your employer or phone provider to determine if you need to dial 9-9-1-1 to report an emergency.

Calling 9-1-1 from a cell phone

Be prepared to say "help" or press "1" after you are connected to the 9-1-1 cell phone system to talk with a dispatcher.

Know your location. Most cell phones deliver latitude and longitude information when they call 9-1-1. This information is plotted on a digital map showing an approximate location of the caller. Call-takers will do everything they can to help determine your location, but your cell phone may not be equipped to send the information or the information may not be accurate — hundreds of yards or several miles off. Each day, dozens of cell phone calls need to be transferred to other 9-1-1 centers.

When you call 9-1-1 from a cell phone in Clackamas, Multnomah or Washington Counties, you will be connected to a recording. The recording will play the following message:

"You have reached Clackamas (or another county's) 9-1-1, do not hang up. For help, say help after the tone." You will then hear a tone and an open line sound. You should say "help" or any other word or noise to trigger your transfer to a dispatcher. The message will go on to say, "To reach a dispatcher, press 1 at any time, or say help at the tone." Again, you will hear a tone, and an open line sound. You may either press "1" or say "help" to get to a call taker.

The instructions are repeated in Spanish.

This recording is part of a 9-1-1 cell phone call filter designed to limit the amount of false cell phone calls that are received by 9-1-1 centers. Approximately 20% of the 9-1-1 cell phone calls received by Clackamas 911 are accidental dials, primarily from callers whose phone buttons were accidentally pressed while in their pocket or purse.

If your cell call is connected to a 9-1-1 center outside your area, the dispatchers at each center are trained to determine the location and transfer your call to the correct 9-1-1 center to get you the best help.

VoIP/internet phone systems

Before purchasing an internet based (VoIP) phone service, you must take important life, safety and liability concerns into consideration.

Some VoIP services DO NOT automatically come with the ability to dial 9-1-1. You must request and successfully activate the 9-1-1 type dialing feature before you can dial 9-1-1.

Not all VoIP providers offer traditional 9-1-1access to emergency services. While some VOIP providers are connected to the 9-1-1 network, there are Internet based phone services which offer a limited 9-1-1 TYPE service, which is NOT routed to the 9-1-1 dispatchers. Calls received from the latter are routed to the general telephone number for the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) or emergency service provider. These Internet based phone services require you (the consumer) to acknowledge that there may be a greater possibility that the general telephone number will produce a busy signal or will take longer to answer than traditional 9-1-1 dialing.

Emergency personnel MAY NOT be able to find your location if the call is unable to be completed, is dropped or is disconnected or if you are unable to speak to tell them this information. It may or may not allow for local emergency personnel to identify your telephone number.

Broadband, internet and/or power outages will render your VoIP phone useless, including dialing 9-1-1. A power outage, broadband service outage or cable service outage affecting your home or business or a change in physical location of your Internet based phone service equipment will prevent you from being able to use Internet based phone service, and will prevent you from being able to call 9-1-1.

There is a possibility of Network Congestion and/or Reduced Speed for Routing 9-1-1. There is a greater possibility of network congestion and/or reduced speed in the routing of 9-1-1 communications utilizing Internet based phone service equipment as compared to traditional 9-1-1 dialing over traditional telephone networks.

Safety and Liability. If there is an emergency at your residence or business and you are not there and have not instructed family, babysitters, guests, the elderly, or employees how to activate the Internet based phone service system, you may be placing them in danger because of the inability to contact emergency service. Internet based phone service will not accept any responsibility or liability for the inability to contact emergency service sand requires that you indemnify Internet based phone service for any claims resulting from your or any other person's inability to dial 9-1-1 or to access emergency service personnel using Internet based phone service.

Office Hours:

Provides 9-1-1 emergency and non-emergency call-taking services to the public.

  • Emergency: 9-1-1 (immediate threat to life and/or property)
  • Non-Emergency: 503-655-8211 (24/7)
  • Administration: 503-655-8370 (Business hours only)