Texas Living

Should You Call 911? Here’s the 411

By Casey Kelly-Barton 3.28.16

Here’s when the experts recommend calling 911, when to call 311 instead, and what to do if you’re not sure. After all, no one wants to call 911 for frivolous reasons, but hesitating can risk lives.

When to dial 911

911 is for fire, ambulance, and police emergency dispatch. Some examples given by the Greater Harris County 911 Emergency Network instances of:

  • Stroke or heart attack symptoms
  • Domestic violence
  • Car accident with injuries
  • House fire
  • Theft or burglary in progress

Other 911-worthy situations include (but aren’t limited to) wildfires, life-threatening allergic reactions, violent assaults or threats, animal attacks, extended water submersion, and many other emergencies.

When to call 311

311 operators help with non-urgent matters like noisy neighbors, missed trash pickups, animal control, and smoke in the distance. If your area doesn’t have 311 service, call your local law enforcement non-emergency number.

In most cities, 311 can address a wide range of concerns, including illegal burning, potholes and other street hazards, stolen vehicles, landlord complaints, and faulty streetlights. You can also reach animal control to report stray pets or livestock running free, or dogs barking too loud.

In Dallas, you can call 311 for litter or bulky trash violations. And in Houston, the same number also can help with water leaks or traffic signal maintenance.

When to call poison control

If you think someone has been poisoned, don’t wait for them to look or feel sick. Instead, call the Texas Poison Center Network, at 800-222-1222, which is staffed with medical experts around the clock who can find help in your area.

When you’re unsure

Health authorities say to call 911 anyway and let the dispatcher decide how to help. This is especially important when someone has symptoms of a stroke or heart attack, both of which need immediate treatment. Just describe the situation as calmly and thoroughly as you can.

More numbers to know

Keep numbers in your cell phone for your utility company’s outage-reporting line, your veterinarian, and an after-hours emergency vet clinic. And 411? It’s great for getting other numbers you need.

Call your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent today and schedule a free 360 Review to make sure your auto, home, life and health policies best meet the needs of you and your loved ones.

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