9-1-1 Communications Center

What is 9-1-1

9-1-1 is the universal telephone number designed for emergency situations. The 9-1-1 system provides residents with a quick and efficient way to get help when they need it most. Those requiring assistance can initiate police, fire or a medical response by simply picking up the phone and dialing 9-1-1. 

The first priority of the operator that answers your call is to find out what type of emergency you are having.  To do this the operator will ask a set of questions designed to gather the necessary information quickly.  Each question asked by the operator is important and necessary to get you the help you need. 

Based on your response to each question, the 9-1-1 operator will determine what type of assistance you need and connect you with either the Tucson Fire Department, in the event of a fire or medical emergency, or the Tucson Police Department if a crime is in progress.

How to call 9-1-1

Calling 9-1-1 is very easy; just pick up the phone and dial the number. Depending on the type of situation, the operator may need to ask for specific types of information.  It might feel like the operator is asking too many questions but don’t be alarmed, this process will NOT delay the emergency response in any way.  Instead, it will help determine the appropriate response or level of care needed to take care of your emergency.  It is important to remember that help is on the way while the operator continues to gather information from you.

For most people, calling 911 is not an every day event and though an emergency situation may prove frightening you can help dispatchers help you, by answering all of the questions asked, staying calm, and speaking clearly.  When calling 9-1-1 be prepared to give the following information:

The reason you’re calling…

  • Tell the operator what is wrong
  • Provide any details that may help the dispatcher send the appropriate assistance

Your location…

  • Tell the operator your exact location
  • Tell the operator where to find the victim once help arrives on the scene
  • If you do not know the address be prepared to provide crossroads, landmarks or other helpful information

Patient information…

  • If possible provide the name, age and number of victims

Listen carefully, follow all of the operator’s instructions and don’t hang up the phone until instructed. After completing the call, wait at the scene until help arrives.

When to call 9-1-1

Since the system is so easy to use and always results in a fast response from highly trained professionals, many people call for situations that aren’t true emergencies. It is important for City of Tucson residents to understand that the 9-1-1 system is designed for emergency situations that are considered an immediate threat to life and/or property. 

Using the system irresponsibly can make it more difficult for first responders to help those who truly need it. This can result in a delayed response to another 9-1-1 call that may be an actual emergency. Abuse of the 9-1-1 system is costly to taxpayers and a drain on public safety resources.

If you are unsure of what constitutes a real emergency use the chart below as a general guideline.  If you are ever in doubt, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1.


When to Call 9-1-1

When to Call Your Physician

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Unresponsive when talked to or touched
  • Drowning
  • Unexplained seizures or convulsions
  • Sudden dizziness, weakness or change in vision
  • Mental change (confusion, difficulty walking or speaking)
  • Unexplained severe headache
  • Sudden or intense pain
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Choking
  • Severe burns
  • Motor vehicle accident
  • Trauma
  • Poisoning
  • Neck or back injury
  • Fire
  • A crime is in progress
  • Earaches
  • Sore throats
  • Fevers that respond to fever reducers
  • Sprains and muscle strains
  • Coughs and colds
  • Abdominal pain and other symptoms that appear viral
  • Any condition that is not life or limb threatening


Access for People with Special Needs


All work stations at the communications center are equipped with Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf (TDD). These devices allow typed (text) communication with the hearing and/or speech impaired.

 If a caller doesn’t speak English, our center has Spanish-speaking operators on-duty most of the time that can take your call. However, if there is no one available (or the caller speaks a language other than Spanish), our center has access to Language Line Services that provide 24 hrs/day over-the-phone interpretation of over 175 different languages. The process of getting an interpreter on the phone with the caller usually takes less than one minute.


Things to Remember

  • 9-1-1 is a free call from any phone including pay phones and cell phones.
  • If you dial 911 by mistake, Do Not Hang Up! Remain on the line and tell the operator it was a mistake. This will avoid a callback or response from Tucson Police.
  • Do not allow your children to play with home phones or cell phones as many of them dial 911 accidentally.
  • Make sure your house and/or mailbox are numbered with the correct address. Reflective numbers work best in the dark and if painted on the curb.
  • If it is dark outside, turn some outside lights on.
  • Put away any pets living inside your home that might get in the way of the responding units.