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For Emergencies Call 9-1-1

The Fullerton Police Communications Center is the primary answering point for all 9-1-1 emergency calls in the City of Fullerton. The Communications Center operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is staffed by a Communications Supervisor, 15 full-time dispatchers and 3 part-time dispatchers. The Fullerton Police Department processes an average of 4,300 emergency 9-1-1 calls per month and over 10,000 business and administrative calls monthly.

The Communications Center is the direct link between citizens and officers in the field. Dispatchers screen and handle approximately 7,000 calls for service each month and provide support for all field operations. Dispatchers must be able to field hundreds of incoming calls each day, determine the best course of action, and forward that information to the appropriate resource. Not only must dispatchers be able to handle these calls for assistance, but they must also monitor multiple radio frequencies, dispatch calls to the police units, access a variety of local, state, and federal databases, assign report numbers, and track officer's activity in the field.

Dispatchers often encounter irate, frustrated, or frightened citizens needing help. During emergency situations, dispatchers must operate with the utmost calm and efficiency in order to control the flow of information. Because each incoming call may vary from a request for general information to a report of a life threatening incident, the dispatcher must ask specific questions and control the conversation to accurately prioritize the call and assign it to a police officer or other appropriate field unit. The more quickly Dispatchers can gather pertinent details--what did you see, what do they look like, what type of car do they have; etc.--the more quickly the responding officers will be provided that information. Obtaining pertinent information rapidly is a very crucial part of a dispatcher's job.

The Communications Center operates with a myriad of technical equipment, including the Versaterm Computer Aided Dispatch system, Sentinel-Patriot 911 intelligent phone workstations, and an 800 MHz trunked radio system. Each component assists the dispatchers in performing their jobs efficiently and effectively.

Tactical Dispatchers work with the SWAT team and receive training in hostage negotiations, interviewing and interrogating techniques, domestic violence, suicidal callers, critical incidents, and sexual assault.

Dispatchers also assist with the recruitment process and the citizen's academy.

Dispatch FAQs

When should you dial 9-1-1?
9-1-1 is the phone number that should be dialed whenever police, fire or ambulance services are needed for an EMERGENCY.  When you dial 9-1-1 from your home phone or business, your address and phone number (minus extension #) will show up on a monitor in the police dispatch center. This is not the case for cell phones.  The police dispatcher answers your call and will either handle your call directly or transfer your call to the fire department or paramedics, if required.
What is considered an “Emergency”?
An emergency is something that must be stopped, prevented or remedied at the immediate time because it threatens life, physical well-being or property.  If you're unsure if your situation is an emergency, call 9-1-1.  If the dispatcher determines that your call is not considered an emergency, you will be asked to phone back on a business line. THIS KEEPS 9-1-1 FREE FOR OTHER EMERGENCIES. 9-1-1 should not be used to make complaints about loud music, parties, parking violations, barking dogs, or to ask questions.
What will the dispatcher ask you when you call 9-1-1?
All callers are asked a standard set of questions which will help the dispatcher prioritize each call and will provide the responding officers with information before their arrival.

LOCATION of the problem: This is important in case the phone is disconnected for some reason. Even though the 9-1-1 screen in dispatch will usually have the phone number and address of the phone you are calling from, the dispatcher will ask you the address where the problem is, as well as where you are calling from to verify the information on the 9-1-1 screen. You may be calling from an address other than the one where the problem is. Be sure to give your extension number to the dispatcher.

NATURE OF THE PROBLEM: Emergency or non-emergency?  Is anyone injured?  Basic description of what occurred.

TIME ELEMENT: When did this occur?

SUSPECT DESCRIPTION: race, sex, height, weight, hair color, facial hair, tattoos, hat, clothing, shoes, etc.

DID THE PERSON HAVE A WEAPON? Are alcohol or drugs involved?

VEHICLE DESCRIPTION: color, year, make, model, license plate, number of doors, identifying marks, and direction of travel.

Emergency response will not be delayed by answering the above questions.  In most instances, officers will be dispatched while you are still on the phone.  By answering the dispatcher's questions, the dispatcher can relay important information to the officers prior to their arrival.  This increases the chances of a suspect being apprehended and the crime being solved and/or prevented.

When giving information, provide all the pertinent information that you have.  For example, if you don't mention that the suspect was wearing a red hat because you don't think it was important, you may be withholding the single most important identifier in apprehending the suspect.  When providing information, please give the most current information first.  It's much more important to know what's happening right now than what happened six months ago.

What about prank 9-1-1 calls?
It's a prank call when someone calls 9-1-1 for a joke, or calls 9-1-1 and hangs up.  Prank calls not only waste time and money, but can also be dangerous.  If call takers are busy with prank calls, someone with a real emergency may not be able to get the help they need.  It's against the law to make prank 9-1-1 calls.
What if I dial 9-1-1 by mistake?
DO NOT HANG UP!  Before you hang up, be sure to tell the dispatcher that you have dialed 9-1-1 by mistake, and that you do not need emergency help.  This is particularly important if you dial from a business phone with several phone lines.  Anytime the police dispatcher receives a 9-1-1 "hang-up", the caller must be contacted to be sure that no actual emergency exists.  If your business has dozens or even hundreds of phone lines, it may be impossible for the dispatcher to determine who, if anyone, needs help, and an officer must then be dispatched to the address.
Can I dial 9-1-1 from a pay phone?
You may dial 9-1-1 for an emergency at any pay phone without needing any coins. The phone number and location of the pay phone will show up on the police dispatch monitor
Should I program my telephone to dial 9-1-1?
NO!!!  While it is not against the law, we strongly advise against doing this. Automatic dialing of 9-1-1 can result in accidental calls to the 9-1-1 dispatcher.  Speed dialing can malfunction and stop working, which would delay precious response time.

In addition, if you are training your children to press a one button speed call number in an emergency, they may not know how to call for help from another phone.
How does 9-1-1 work from a cellular phone?
The Fullerton Police Department is now receiving 911 calls made from cellular phones when the caller is within the City of Fullerton.  Some calls will still be answered by the California Highway Patrol depending on where the caller is located.  It is very important to let the dispatcher know your location right away.

The California Highway Patrol is encouraging citizens with cellular phones to report drunk or reckless drivers, accidents or other emergencies by dialing 9-1-1. Depending on where you are calling from, you will either reach the local police department or CHP. The types of calls that CHP consider "emergencies" include: drunk or reckless driving, traffic accidents or other road hazards, medical emergencies, fires, crimes-in-progress, and stranded drivers in need of assistance.

What if a 9-1-1 caller doesn't speak English?
When necessary, a 9-1-1 call taker can add an interpreter from an outside service to the line.  A non-English speaking caller may hear a short conversation in English and some clicking sounds as the interpreter is added to the line.
What if a 9-1-1 caller is Deaf, or hearing/speech impaired?
Communications centers that answer 9-1-1 calls have special text telephones for responding to 9-1-1 calls from Deaf or hearing/speech impaired callers.

If a caller uses a TTY/TDD, the caller should stay calm, place the phone receiver in the TTY, and dial 9-1-1.  After the call is answered, press the TTY keys several times.  This may help shorten the time necessary to respond to the call.  Give the call taker time to connect their TTY.  If necessary, press the TTY keys again.  The 9-1-1 call taker should answer and type "GA" for Go Ahead.  Tell the dispatcher what is needed: police, fire department, or ambulance.  Give your name, phone number and the address where help is needed.  Stay on the telephone if it is safe.  Answer the call taker's questions.

If a Deaf or hearing/speech impaired caller doesn't have a TTY/TDD, the caller should call 9-1-1and leave the line open.  With most 9-1-1 calls, the caller's address is displayed on the call taker's screen and help will be sent.
Should I dial 9-1-1 during an earthquake or other major disaster?
There will be a delay in receiving a dial tone.  Don't flick the hook switch (click button up and down), since each time it is depressed, your call reverts to the "end of the line" to receive the dial tone, resulting in further delay.  Wait at least one to one and a half minutes for a dial tone. It could take that long or even 5-6 minutes in a major disaster, because of the number of calls being made.

Please tune in to the emergency broadcast station on your radio, for information and updates, rather than calling the police or fire departments. DO NOT CALL radio stations for updates; the less the phone lines are used, the more service there will be for emergency help.  In some instances, the dial tone will be eliminated from residential phones and phones that are not on "essential service".  In these instances, ALL PAY PHONES will be operable, with a dial tone.

There is no way to tell, in advance, if the 9-1-1 screens in the dispatch center will be functioning correctly in a major emergency, so be prepared to give the dispatcher all information.  During a disaster, Southern California Edison usually goes out of service.  DO NOT call the police department to find out when the power will go back on.

For many reasons other than a major disaster, Southern California Edison may go out of service, such as during a heavy storm, a car accident into a Southern California Edison pole, etc.  In these instances, call Southern California Edison to find out when the power will go back on, rather than calling the police department, since the police department will not know.  The police department should be notified however, on a non-emergency phone line (714) 738-6700 if signal lights are out, so that traffic control can be provided.