Getting emergency help in the United States

When you travel to US, you should know how to handle an emergency. Emergencies can happen unexpectedly any where and cause harm to your property, to you, or your loved ones traveling with you. You and others traveling with you should know how to get help. The local telephone number for getting help is 911. With this emergency help line, you can:

  • report a crime
  • report fire
  • request an ambulance for medical help
  • report suspicious activities (such as call for help, gunshots)
An ambulance is just one call away for medical help
An ambulance is just one call away for medical help

When you call 911, your call should be answered within 15 seconds. You should not hang up if you are put on hold or if you hear silence. If you have dialed this emergency number, wait for the operator to speak. If you do not speak English, request an interpreter by indicating the language you do speak.

When your call is answered, the 911 operator will ask you series of questions to find out what ad where the emergency is. Without this information, help will be delayed. So keep calm, answer questions, and stay on the phone with the operator until you hear help is on the way.

Note: the 911 number is for serious and life-threatening emergencies only.

You should not call 911 to:

  • ask for directions,
  • as for information about public services,
  • find out if someone is in jail, or
  • report situations that are not emergencies

If you have a non-emergency question for the police, you should call the local non-emergency number in the state you will be visiting.

If a police officer arrives as a result of your call, remember it came to help you. Law enforcement officers (such as police officers or sheriff) in the US are here to protect the public. If needed, they will help you and your family from harm. If you are a victim, don’t be afraid to report a crime. Here are some tips to handle the situation when the police officer arrives:

  • Don’t be afraid
  • Be polite and cooperative. The police officer came to help you!
  • Tell the officer you need an interpreter
  • If you are in a car don’t get out of the car until you are instructed to do so.
  • Don’t reach your pockets. This will indicate either you are hiding something or try to get something (a weapon). Keep your hands where the officer can see them. If you need something to show to the police officer, tell him/her of that first.
A police car
A police car
Posted on 5/6/2006
by Raj Singh