The majority of countries around the globe have an emergency number. When you dial this number, you can speak to a phone operator, who will help you access immediate emergency help and assistance.
The phone operator will be able to direct your call to the nearest suitable emergency service, whether it is the police department, fire department or ambulance service in order to give you the fastest response and help as possible.
In the US, and in Canada, the emergency number, as we all know, is 911. We are always told to only ever use this number in the state of an emergency, and not for any other reason. So, does it cost to call 911, and will you get charged for calling? Well, that’s what we are here to tell you!
In most cases, in the US and Canada, you will not typically be charged for calling 911. Emergency services such as the fire department and police departments are generally paid for by taxes, and do not send you a bill for responding to your call.
That being said, if you require an ambulance, or medical treatment, then you may receive a bill, and have to pay for those.
If you are in the situation where you need to call 911, this tends to be a time of great duress, stress and emergency, and the last thing you need is a bill to go with it.
That being said, you should be aware of the process of calling 911, what you can expect and when you will need to pay for the services received. So, keep reading to find out more!
Can You Get Charged For Calling 911?
If you are experiencing or have witnessed an incident or emergency, then you will need to call 911. In the United States, and in Canada, when you call 911, your call will be directed to a dispatch center.
This is typically directed to the closest dispatch center to your landline, or will be directed in reference to the cell tower your phone signal hits first.
Once the call gets connected to a dispatch center, it will be answered by a trained 911 operator. The operator will then ask you a series of questions.
These will typically be regarding your location, what the emergency is, if anyone is injured, not breathing or if there are police vehicles or ambulance vehicles needed.
As a result of these questions, the 911 operator will dispatch the relevant services, such as firefighters, police officers, EMTs, paramedics or ambulances, depending on the issue.
They may also send the closest units available in some emergencies, as they will be able to offer assistance as soon as possible.
Depending on the emergency, it can either take priority, or be answered in a few hours. Most of the time, in time-sensitive situations, the emergency services will arrive in a matter of minutes, and will come to you as soon as possible.
You may also receive multiple responders if the situation deems it necessary.
For instance, in a road traffic collision, you may need police officers to arrest perpetrators, firefighters to free those trapped in their cars, and EMTs or paramedics to offer medical help.
Whatever the emergency is, the responders will use their equipment, expertise, training and problem solving skills to rectify the situation as fast as possible.
This may include preserving and protecting life, ensuring evidence is gathered, and ensuring the safety of all those involved and those in the area.
Whilst it can take a lot of time, effort and training to do what emergency responders do, this does not mean that you are responsible for paying for those services. Most of these resources are paid by everyone, through their taxes.
However, there are some cases where fire departments and other city services will institute an emergency response fee which can help recoup time, money and resources. In addition, this also helps to ward off those who prank call the emergency services or 911 operators.
Also, if you receive emergency medical care, or are transported to a hospital via an ambulance, you will most likely be charged for this. In most medical emergencies, the fire department or EMTs and paramedics will be the first responders.
These people are able to treat and stabilize patients until further treatment can be given.
EMTs, firefighter EMTs and paramedics are trained to preserve life, ensuring that there are no life threatening situations, and wait for an ambulance to be dispatched to take the patient to a nearby hospital or treatment facility for advanced medical care.
When an ambulance is deployed, you will usually receive a bill. Most ambulance services are owned by private companies, and will bill either you or your insurance company for using them as transport and for any treatments along the way.
In some cases, the fire department may have ambulance vehicles and can take you to the hospital, but this also incurs a cost.
How Much Does It Cost To Call 911?
It costs nothing to call 911. The only time you may be billed is if you are taken to hospital in an ambulance, or treated on the way to hospital in the ambulance. This is because 75% of ambulance companies are privately owned and not paid for by public taxes.
For instance, in California, the average cost of an ambulance to transport you to hospital would be about $589.
However, this can vary, and the price depends on whether you are paying or a private insurance company is. For example, the average cost for a person with private insurance will be about $1200!
This is largely because people with no insurance or who are insured by Medicare can only pay a preset rate, regardless of what it actually costs for the ambulance services, so the price is settled for much lower.
Those of us who have private insurance, will receive much higher bills as this covers the money lost by those with Medicare and Medi-cal.
In other cases, ambulance services can even cost upwards of $2000, especially if you require special treatment.
For example, an air ambulance can cost anywhere between $12,000 and $25,000 with some costing up to $200,000 in resources. For most people, using an ambulance will cost around $1500, but your insurance may cover some if not all of that bill.
Will 911 Put You On Hold?
Most of the time, no, 911 operators will not put you on hold, but they may be required to answer other 911 calls at the same time. However, they will try to answer and respond to your call as soon as possible.
911 operators are actually responsible for keeping you safe, and on the line when you have called them, but at the same time they have to liaise with emergency departments in order to dispatch them.
In these cases, they may place you on hold for a few seconds whilst they talk to the police/fire/emergency services to give them information and locations.
Whilst they are trained to do this, on days where there are multiple calls, there may be slight delays or not as many staff working. Although calling 911 is a stressful time, you have to try to remain calm, as the operators are there to help and assist you in every way that they can.
What Happens If I Accidentally Call 911?
Accidentally calling 911 is actually very common. Many children have gotten hold of the phone and have dialed the emergency services by accident!
If this does happen to you, you will not be fined. Just make sure that you stay on the line, and let them know that it was an accident, and that you did not mean to call them.
You have to let the 911 operator know that it was an accident, as if you do not, they will try to call back to see if there is an emergency, or will trace your location and send out emergency vehicles to you to check if everything is okay.
You can however be charged if you make a false 911 call, or lie about there being a threat or emergency. This can result in a fine or even a misdemeanor in some cases. The fine for falsely calling 911 can be up to $1000 and can even land you in jail for 90 days.
However, there is some debate that this penalty is too lenient, as the actual cost of deploying ambulances and emergency services is so high, and prank calls massively waste time, funding and resources.
What Are The Emergency Numbers In Other Locations?
There are emergency numbers for many countries. In the US and Canada, the emergency number is 911. In the United Kingdom, the emergency number will be 999.
For most of Europe, the number sequence 112 will direct you to ambulance or emergency medical services as soon as possible.
Other countries have specific numbers depending on the emergency, such as forest fire numbers, gas leaks, water incidents and other emergencies. For a full list of emergency numbers, check out this page for reference
To summarize, if you are experiencing or witnessing an emergency incident, calling 911 should be the very first thing you do. You should not be concerned or thinking about the cost or whether you will be billed, as the emergency services are there to save lives.
That being said, calling 911 will not incur a charge just for calling, but there may be a bill if you get transported to the hospital or treated in an ambulance.