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Do you know when to call 9-1-1?

9-1-1 should only be used when a true emergency exists.

When a citizen has an emergency anywhere in Mendocino County and dials 9-1-1, the call is routed to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Communications Center. The Public Safety Dispatchers screen all calls in order to identify your call as a "POLICE", "FIRE", or "MEDICAL" emergency. The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office will handle "POLICE" emergencies; all other emergencies will be immediately transferred to the corresponding agencies.


What's an Emergency?

  • An emergency is when immediate police, fire department, or medical assistance is necessary to protect life or property.
  • If an emergency situation arises — a crime, a fire, a serious injury or illness — ask yourself whether police, fire department, or medical assistance is needed right now to protect life or property. if YES, then immediately call 9-1-1 and advise the dispatcher what has happened or is happening.
  • Call 9-1-1 whenever you believe there is an emergency. If you are not sure it's a real emergency, call 9-1-1 and the dispatcher will make the final determination.
  • When the Communications Center receives several 9-1-1 calls at the same time, these multiple 9-1-1 calls are handled on a priority basis. The most serious emergency will be handled first.
  • No money is needed to call 9-1-1 from a payphone. If there is an emergency, you can just pick up a payphone, wait for a dial tone, and call 9-1-1 without depositing a coin.


Critical Information the Dispatcher Needs to Know

  • What's the emergency? What's wrong? What type of crime is in progress?
  • Where is the emergency? Give the address, include building number, apartment number or nearest cross street. The name of the building or color of house is also helpful.
  • Who needs help? Names/ages and any descriptive information are helpful. (Example: color of clothing, height/weight, hair/eye color)
  • Weapons? Did you see any weapons involved? What type?

Remain calm and give direct answer to the questions asked. Speak slowly and clearly. You will be asked several questions so the dispatcher can send the right type of help. All questions are important.

9-1-1 Do's and Dont'ts

Some calls are not appropriate for 9-1-1. These calls tie up emergency lines that are used to answer real emergency calls.


  • Call 9-1-1 to report a fire, an accident, serious medical problems, or when life or property is endangered
  • Stay as calm as possible
  • Speak loud and clear, but do not scream
  • Let the dispatcher control the conversation


  • Do not call 9-1-1 and ask for the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office non-emergency number. The non-emergency number is (707) 463-4086
  • Do not call 9-1-1 and ask for telephone numbers. Contact information at 4-1-1
  • During a storm do not call 9-1-1 to report the power is out at your home, unless it is an emergency. Call PG&E or your local electric company
  • Do not call 9-1-1 for non-emergency transportation
  • Do not call 9-1-1 to speak with a deputy regarding an ongoing investigation
  • Do not call 9-1-1 for information on court dates or times, bail amounts, whether or not someone is in custody or hours of visitation. Contact the Mendocino County Jail at (707) 463-4423; call 4-1-1 for the phone of the town justice court involved.
  • Do not call 9-1-1 just to see if it works

This is not an exhaustive list of all the reasons why NOT to call 9-1-1. COmmon sense shows that these calls clearly do not fall in the category of an emergency.

If you call 9-1-1 by mistake, please stay on the line and advise the dispatcher. If you hang up on 9-1-1, the dispatcher will have to call you back, or send a squad car to your location.