Cell Phones

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Can I call 9-1-1 from my cell phone?

Yes, but it does not work as well as your home phone or business phone. When you dial 9-1-1 from a cellular phone, you will be connected to a 9-1-1 center but it may not be your local 9-1-1 center.  Many phones now incorporate a GPS chip that use the phone’s exact location to determine which center to send the call to; this is very accurate.  Older phones (or those that have the chip disabled) will use the phone’s signal to determine where it is in relation to a series of cell towers (triangulation); if the tower deemed closest to you is in another county you may end up getting sent there instead.

There are many important things to remember when calling 9-1-1 from your wireless phone. It is very important that you provide as much information as possible to the dispatcher.  You should know:

  • Your wireless phone number
  • Your exact location
  • What direction you are traveling
  • How many miles you are from the nearest town or cross street
  • What mile marker you are closest to

Preventing Accidental 9-1-1 Calls
Cellular phones have proven to be an invaluable tool for help when an emergency arises. Quick access to 9-1-1 services is one of the most common reasons why people choose to purchase a wireless phone.

Wireless phones can easily dial 9-1-1 on their own, without the phone’s owner being aware that the 9-1-1 call has been made. Accidental 9-1-1 calls are made when the phone is put in a pocket or purse, and gets bumped.

Another problem is that adults give their old wireless phones to children as toys. Phones with no service can still dial 9-1-1, and 9-1-1 calls from children playing with a phone are not uncommon.

Steuben County Communications is asking for the public’s help in reducing the number of accidental 9-1-1 calls from wireless phones. Each person who owns a wireless phone can do their part to help solve this problem by following 3 easy steps.

  1. Lock your keypad
  2. Turn off the 9-1-1 auto dial feature if equipped
  3. Do not program 9-1-1 into your speed dial list


Please remember:

Accidental wireless 9-1-1 calls tie up the phone lines and 9-1-1 emergency call takers. By implementing the steps above, this will ensure that our emergency service people will be available to handle the real emergencies that need our assistance.