We travel and camp in some reasonably remote areas. How can we know if there is 911 coverage?
To check and see if the area you will be traveling has 911 service use the coverage map at the NENA (National Emergency Number Association) website. Remember 911 coverage doesn’t mean that you’ll have cell phone service, you’ll have to check with your cell provider for that.
Are cell phone calls geographically located by the 911 system?
That depends on where you are. Any 911 system that uses Phase II technology is able to geographically locate calls. The coverage map on the NENA website also shows what areas have Phase II service.
What do we need to tell our Scouts about using 911 over a cell phone?
911 operators are trained to treat every call as a valid emergency. They may ask a few questions to be sure that the call requires emergency response and establish the importance of the call according to protocols; if they are speaking with a minor they will usually ask if there is an adult nearby.
Scouts are generally pretty good kids, so I’d not be overly concerned about their making phony 911 calls but they should understand that a phony 911 call is a crime.
They should also be aware that 911 is for emergencies, not for non-emergency information (like weather reports)That being said they should never be discouraged from making a 911 call if they think there is an emergency.
What if Scouts dial 911 and then decide that it is not actually an emergency? I am concerned that they’ll be mobilizing a response needlessly. Is it true that every 911 call has to be followed up by an in-person response?
Anyone who has accidentally dialed 911 and hung up knows that the call is followed up. This actually happened to me recently, I accidentally called 911 on my Blackberry and I thought I hung up before the call went through, but the call did go through. The 911 center called me back right away. Hang ups or abandoned calls are sometimes able to be resolved this way. But the Scouts have to understand that every 911 call is taken seriously.
As I said 911 operators are trained to work with callers to get them help; they know how to handle many different situations. We need to be careful that we don’t discourage Scouts faced with an emergency and who really need help from calling 911.