911. It is the phone number that we have been taught since we were old enough to count. The three-numbered code that we all remember, yet we hope so fiercely that we will never have to actually use it.
While emergency phone numbers vary depending on which area in the world you are from, the number ‘911’ is used in both the US and Canada.
This is the number that a person would need to call if they require assistance from the police, the fire department, a medical team, or mountain rescue. These services are collectively known as emergency services.
While we all hope that we will never have to contact emergency services, sometimes we are caught up in situations in which we will need to call 911 for assistance. Accidents happen every day, and in serious instances, we will need their help.
One thing that you may need to consider before calling for emergency services is the cost. It seems that nothing is free these days, and everything comes with a cost, even if we are in an emergency situation that could, potentially, be the difference between life or death.
In these scenarios, you likely won’t even think about how much the call will cost: you just want help to arrive as soon as possible.
So, let’s use this time to do the research before these situations arrive.
Hopefully you will never be in a position where you must call for emergency services, but if you ever do find yourself in a situation where further help is needed, you will be thankful that you took the time to read this article.
Does it cost money to call 911? What is the price of emergency calls?
Let’s find out.
How Do Emergency Calls Work?
So, what actually happens when you dial 911?
Firstly, it is important to remember that you should only dial this number if you, or someone that you are with, is in serious danger.
This may be if a serious crime has been committed, if you or someone else is seriously injured, or if there has been a major accident that could affect the lives of you or others. If this is the case, then you should not hesitate to call for whichever emergency services you require.
When you call 911, an operator will answer your call and ask which services you require. It is at this point that you tell them whether you would like to speak to the police department, fire department, ambulance service, or lifeboat or mountain rescue.
They will also ask you for your address, or the address for where you currently are.
Once this information has been received, they will ask you what has happened, and why you have called for the chosen emergency services.
It can be difficult to concentrate during extremely serious situations, but you will need to listen to every question that is asked of you, and make sure you answer as clearly as possible. Staying calm is key, although depending on the situation, this may be easier said than done.
You will need to explain what has happened as quickly and thoroughly as possible: only explain the details that they need to know, unless they ask further questions, as you don’t want to waste any time if someone is injured, or a lot of damage has been done.
It is very important to stay on the line until the operator has told you it is okay to hang up. You will need to continue communicating over the phone until the emergency team has arrived.
The operator will ask what you look like, as the emergency services will need to know who they are looking for, whether the team is travelling in an ambulance, fire engine, police car, or some other means of transport.
You should keep in mind that even if it feels like the operator is asking too many questions, and you feel that they are wasting time, there will be another dispatcher in the room who is contacting the emergency services while you and the first dispatcher are still speaking on the phone.
It is important that they receive all the information they need while they make these plans.
Before you call 911, you will need to consider how serious your situation is. If you are in a life threatening position, in which you or another person is in serious danger, you will be placed at the top of the list to receive help.
If your reason for calling isn’t seen as extremely serious, you may be placed on a waiting list.
Those who require immediate attention will be prioritized over those who do not. You can do your own research right now to find out which emergencies are considered priority so that you will know if, and when, the time comes.
Depending on your emergency, the chosen service should arrive at your location within a matter of minutes.
How Much Does It Cost To Call 911?
So, how much does a 911 call cost?
It honestly depends on the area that you are from. In some states there is no cost, and so the call may be completely free of charge. In other states, it could cost anywhere from a couple of cents to fifty dollars.
Sometimes, depending on the situation, you could find yourself paying even more.
Another factor that you should consider is whether you’re calling from a landline, a cell phone, or VoIP.
You may receive additional charges depending on which form of contact you decide to use, so this is also another great reason to do your own research beforehand: trust us, you will be grateful that you did.
You will be able to check just how much you were charged by checking your phone bill after the incident. The phone call should be recorded under the ‘Taxes and Government Fees’ section of your phone bill, and may be titled ‘State 911 Fee’ or another similar title along those lines.
As we said before, you probably won’t even think about how much the phone call will cost while you’re caught up in the midst of an emergency. It will only be afterwards, once everything has calmed down, that you may even remember to check.
This is why it is best that you find these facts out before an incident occurs: this way, you can be as prepared as possible, especially if you are someone who struggles with their finances.
Why Do We Have To Pay To Call 911?
It may seem unfair that a person should have to pay to contact emergency services: after all, more often than not, it is not our fault that we are in an emergency situation.
This can be particularly frustrating if you have called 911 for someone else, or even a stranger, and you now have to pay the bill.
It is a fairly controversial topic. Many departments, including police and fire, are paid through taxes, meaning that these phone calls will be paid for you.
In some states, however, there is something called an emergency response fee: these are charges for several services that are performed by the police department, fire department, ambulance service, etc.
Even in cases involving fatalities, a fee will still be requested from the deceased’s family or insurance company.
It may seem unfair, but unfortunately, this is how the world works: if we require a service, no matter whether it is for a situation that was caused by ourselves or another, someone has to pay for that service.
There are many arguments for and against whether victims or simple bystanders should have to pay these fees, but sometimes these prices are out of our control.
What Happens If We Accidentally Call 911?
This happens more often than you would believe it would. Oftentimes, a person’s child may pick up the phone and dial that familiar number that they have been taught just for the fun of it. It may even be the case that you, yourself, have accidentally dialled the number and pressed ‘call’.
If you find yourself in this situation, it is very important that you remain on the line, even if it was purely by accident.
You should wait for the operator to answer your call, and when they do, quickly notify them that it was an accident. You won’t get into trouble for this, especially if it is the only time that you have ever done it.
If you panic and immediately hang up the very second you realise your mistake, emergency services may track your location and arrive at your address regardless.
Think about it: there are hundreds of thousands of people in danger everyday that attempt to call for emergency services, only for their phone to die, cut off, or even, in more dire situations, someone may have hung up the phone for them.
The police department will need to visit these addresses just to ensure that a real emergency hasn’t taken place.
While you won’t get into trouble if emergency services arrive at your doorstep, it is still a waste of their time, and could essentially be preventing them from helping others who are in need at that very moment.
The most important thing you can do is remain on the line, wait for the operator to speak, and let them know that there is no emergency.
If you do accidentally hang up in the midst of your panic, the odds are that they will attempt to call you back. If they do, answer, and tell them that their services are not needed.
Going back to the titular question, you will be pleased to discover that you will not be charged if you have called them on accident.
However, if you have made an intentional call to 911 when they are not needed, e.g. a prank call, this is an extremely different situation, and there may be more consequences than a simple fee to pay.
If it is proven that you called 911 on purpose for no good reason, you may be charged up to $10,000, and could even be sentenced to a year or two in prison.