Ask Paducah - Frequently Asked Questions About 911

Ask Paducah logoFrequently Asked Questions About 911

Ed McManusThe City of Paducah 911 Communications Services Department is the primary Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for Paducah-McCracken County providing 911 emergency and non-emergency services to 65,000 residents.  This telecommunications center receives calls via 911 and many non-emergency telephone numbers for law enforcement, fire, medical, and rescue services.  The center has an annual incoming volume of more than 164,000 combined telephone calls.  For this edition of Ask Paducah, Director Ed McManus provides answers to questions frequently posed about the 911 service.

Is 911 just a number you call to contact the Police or Fire Departments?     No, 911 is a department, the 911 Communications Services Department, within the City of Paducah.  There are 22 full-time employees.  Of those, 18 are 911 telecommunicators who answer and process emergency and non-emergency calls.

When should I call 911?    You should call 911 to report an emergency situation including serious medical conditions, injury accidents, and in progress calls such as a burglary in progress or mischief in progress.  Any type of incident that could potentially be harmful to life or property would be a situation in which you would call 911.

When is it inappropriate to call 911?           Please do not call 911 to ask about road conditions, to report that your electricity is out, or to report you have seen a dog running loose down the street.  For situations that are not considered to be life or property-threatening, you should call the appropriate department.  However, there is a non-emergency administrative number to the 911 center (270-444-8550) that can assist in some situations.

How will the 911 center know my location if I call 911 from my cell phone?            When you call 911 from a cell phone, the call will connect to the nearest cell phone tower.  Each tower has an ESN (emergency service number) assigned to it.  That ESN will direct your call to the appropriate local 911 center.  Your phone information, along with the GPS of the phone, displays on the 911 screen.  The GPS of your phone is then transferred to 911 mapping, and your location will plot on the map.

Is it possible to be directed to the wrong 911 center when I call from my cell phone?     Yes, if you are close to a county line, you may connect to a cell tower in the neighboring county.  If this happens, the 911 telecommunicator can switch you to the correct 911 center with a one button transfer.

In the past, I called to report an injury accident on Interstate 24 and my call was never answered by 911.  Why did that occur?    The majority of people today have immediate access to a cell phone.  Many times there are several people who call 911 to report the same accident.  The 911 system can easily be overtaxed with multiple 911 calls.  When this occurs, unfortunately our staff can answer only so many of the calls at one time.  Therefore, some of the calls are unanswered.  On a typical day, four telecommunicators are on-duty.  If ten people are calling 911 at the same time to report an incident, we will be able to answer only about half of those calls.

What kind of questions will I need to answer when calling 911?          The most important question to answer is your location.  For many years, the 911 telecommunicator would answer the 911 call with 911, WHAT is your emergency?  Now, the 911 telecommunicator will answer 911, WHERE is your emergency?  It’s very important when calling 911 that you know your location.  Other questions include What is your name and phone number?  What is being reported?  It’s very important when calling to remain calm and answer all the questions the telecommunicator asks.  Depending on what is being reported, the telecommunicator will ask follow-up questions.

If I accidently call 911, should I just hang up?    No, if you call 911 by accident, let the telecommunicator answer your call.  You can tell 911 that you dialed it by mistake. Once the telecommunicator understands you called by mistake, you will be allowed to disconnect.

For more information, visit 911 Communications Services Department.



Do you have an idea for Ask Paducah? 

Contact Public Information Officer Pam Spencer at or 270-444-8669.

(Edition 11 – December 6, 2016)