Why making 911 calls from your cell is not advisable

Berkeleyside’s ace intern, Charlotte Horsey, prompted us to think about emergency phone calls the other day when she mentioned she had programmed a Berkeley Police Department phone number into her cell phone (at her mother’s — oh so sensible — suggestion) because calling the police from a cell phone is not always advisable.

Why, we wondered? Here’s why, according to the Berkeley Police Department website:

Many community members are unaware that if you dial 911 from your cell phone, the call is captured by the nearest cellular tower and directly routed to the nearest California Highway Patrol (CHP) dispatch center. In the Berkeley area, calls go to the CHP dispatch center in Vallejo, where the dispatcher receives only information regarding the cell phone number making the call. The dispatcher will then inquire as to the location of the caller and transfer it to the appropriate local law enforcement agency.

On the other hand, when you dial 911 from a land-line, the dispatcher receives computer aided information such as police, fire and medical jurisdictions, the telephone number making the call, and the address the call is being made from.

Hence, the Berkeley Police Department’s  strong recommendation to program its police dispatch number into your cell phone to speed up the emergency process and save the loss of time involved in the transferring of the call.

Cell phone users in Berkeley can program 510-981-5911 (local — no toll charge) into their phones for a direct connection to the Berkeley Police Department Communications Center.

If you must make a 911 call from your cell phone, it is important to stay on the line and provide the dispatcher with as much information about the exact location of the emergency to ensure the help can be dispatched to the correct location. CHP dispatch center in Vallejo received over 2 million 911 cell calls in 2007.