Frequently Asked Questions

What is the 9-1-1 surcharge on my home telephone used for?
The $1.00 surcharge on your home telephone is used to pay for dedicated trunk lines so that your telephone service provider can deliver 9-1-1 calls to the Cass County 9-1-1 Center. A portion of the surcharge is also used to pay for maintenance to the 9-1-1 system,
What if I accidentally dial 9-1-1?
If you accidentally dial 9-1-1, it’s best to stay on the line. Most times, your call is processed and sent to a 9-1-1 center the moment you finish dialing or press the send key on your cellular phone. Stay on the line and inform the dispatcher of the error and that you don’t have an emergency. The dispatcher may ask a few questions to verify your status and may ask to speak with another person to verify that the call was an error. If anything appears suspicious to the 9-1-1 dispatcher, our policy is to dispatch a police officer or deputy. If you hang up before the 9-1-1 dispatcher answers, our policy is to automatically dispatch a police officer or deputy to your location to investigate. All 9-1-1 hang-up calls are considered priority calls by all law enforcement agencies in Cass County.
Can I call 9-1-1 on my cell phone and is there a cost involved?
Yes, you can call 9-1-1 on your cell phone. However, be prepared to give the 9-1-1 dispatcher information about your location, because it is not like calling 9-1-1 on your home phone. It is free to call 9-1-1 on your cell phone and generally does not use any of your allotted minutes, however in Iowa, you do pay $.65 per month in surcharge fees which pays for the system to deliver your call to the correct 9-1-1 center.
Does the 9-1-1 dispatcher know my location on my cellular phone?
Assume the 9-1-1 dispatcher does not know your location. Even if your cell phone is able to provide location information, the chances are you will need to provide the 9-1-1 dispatcher with additional location information. Remember, the approximate location the 9-1-1 center receives could be as large as 3 football fields or more. Be prepared to give specific directions to your location.
What if I don’t know where I’m at when I call 9-1-1?
Look for landmarks, large buildings, street signs or paperwork nearby that may contain address information. Think back to the main street or highway you were near when your emergency occurred. If others are around, ask them where you are. Do not depend on your cell phone to tell 9-1-1 where you are!
Does the 9-1-1 dispatcher know my phone number when I call 9-1-1 on a cell phone?
Maybe or maybe not, depending upon your cell phone and the technology available within the 9-1-1 center your 9-1-1 call connects with. The safest way to approach the problem is to assume that the 9-1-1 dispatcher will not know your phone number and be prepared to provide them with that information.
Why is the 9-1-1 dispatcher asking me so many questions?
The more questions 9-1-1 dispatchers ask, the more information they can pass on to the emergency personnel responding to your 9-1-1 call. This information allows the emergency personnel to more accurately prepare.
While the 9-1-1 dispatcher is speaking to me is help being sent?
Yes. Once the basic information and reason for the 9-1-1 call is obtained, the 9-1-1 dispatcher sends the appropriate police, fire or EMS department. The 9-1-1 dispatcher will continue to ask questions, give emergency response information and pass on situation updates to the responding personnel until help arrives at the scene. During this time, you may be placed on hold. Do not hang up the phone until you are told to do so.
Why does the dispatcher transfer my call to another agency?
Your call to 9-1-1 may need to be transferred to another agency because cell phone calls are sent to a 9-1-1 answering point based on cell radio coverage. Cell coverage areas don’t always match political boundaries, so most calls are routed to a 9 1 1 answering point that serves the majority of the area. Your call may need to be transferred to the appropriate agency for the area.
What do I do if I’m cut off after they answer?
Always try to call 9-1-1 back. Don’t wait for 9-1-1 dispatcher to try to contact you. They may not have received your cell phone number in the initial 9-1-1 call and may need additional information.
Can I keep driving when I call 9-1-1 on a cellular phone?
It is usually best to pull over when calling 9-1-1, as there is less chance of the cell phone signal being dropped if in a stationary location. Additionally, any emergency instructions that need to be carried out can best be done while stopped. Finally, if help needs to reach you it is best to be in one place so help can get to you, instead of trying to meet them somewhere. If you cannot safely pull over to speak to 9-1-1 then stay calm, pay attention to the roadway with surrounding vehicles, and follow the 9-1-1 dispatcher’s instructions.
Should I program 9-1-1 or turn on my auto 9-1-1 feature on my cellular phone?
NO, please don’t program 9-1-1 or use the auto 9-1-1 feature. There are numerous accidental calls to 9-1-1 from cell phones that have this feature. The callers often don’t realize that their phone has called 9-1-1. Help reduce accidental calls to 9-1-1.