Frequently Asked Questions

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How does 911 work?

When a caller dials 911, the Medicine Hat 911 call-taker asks “What is your emergency?” The next question will be “For what town or city?” The 911 call-takers job is to then connect the caller as quickly as possible to the proper agency the caller has requested. The entire process usually takes around 25-30 seconds.

What if the caller doesn’t know what service they need?
If a caller is unsure of what service they need, the Medicine Hat 911 call-taker is trained to interrogate to help determine which agency is required and will connect the caller accordingly.

What is the difference between a call-taker and dispatcher?
The call-taker is the person who normally speaks with the person who has dialed 911. The dispatcher is the person who speaks with the emergency personnel in the field. There are times when the dispatcher will be the call-taker, however they work together, sharing information through computer and radio systems, which allow for the instant and seamless passing of information.

Does Medicine Hat 911 receive a lot of unnecessary 911 calls?
Medicine Hat 911 receives numerous accidental 911 calls each day, due in large to people programming 911 into their phones, or cell phones that are in positions where keys are accidentally pressed. Never program 911 into any phone, and stow your phones carefully.

It is most important for callers to know that 911 is for emergencies only – it is not an information line. During a major disaster or event, residents should use their televisions and radios, not 911 to get up-to-date information.

What happens if I dial 911 accidentally?
The best thing you can do is just remain on the line and tell us! If you hang up – our call-takers must now take the time to call you back to confirm you are OK, or send police to check on you. If you dial us by mistake, you will not be charged a fee, so there is no need to be concerned.


Why do I always get asked “For what Town or City?” Can’t they tell I’m in Medicine Hat?
Medicine Hat 911 is the primary answer point (PSAP) for Southeastern Alberta, and will either interrogate your call, or shunt your call to the most appropriate center i.e.) RCMP and/or to the Calgary Public Safety Centre for the dispatch of an ambulance.

Medicine Hat 911 also call takes and dispatches for 24 rural Fire Departments as well as the Medicine Hat Fire Department, so determining the town/city is imperative in getting help to you in the most efficient manner.

Why do they ask me all those questions? All I want is for them to send me help!
Our call-takers are highly trained, dedicated professionals and their persistence is based on a need to provide accurate and very specific information to the attending emergency responders. The questions are also designed to address scene safety for you and your loved ones, as well as for the safety of the responding emergency personnel.

If a caller is unsure of what service they need, the 911 call-taker is trained to determine this via interrogation, and swiftly connect the caller accordingly. Once connected to the correct agency, their dispatcher can also contact other agencies to assist with response. For example: If EMS receives a call where police presence is required, they will contact the appropriate department/detachment for assistance.

I called 911 and they put me on hold!
As Medicine Hat 911 is the primary call answer point for all 911 calls in South Eastern Alberta, when your location is determined you may be shunted to another call taker. Medicine Hat 911 call takes and dispatches for Fire, Police and transfers to Calgary for Ambulance so it is necessary to put you in touch with the appropriate agency call taker. The entire process usually takes around 25 – 30 seconds.

Why aren’t they sending someone … instead they delayed my call and asked me all these questions first!
Be assured, as soon as the call taker has determined 1) the town or city you are calling from and 2) the service you require – they (or their partner) will be alerting and dispatching those resources to you while you continue to answer the very important questions.