A Public Safety Answering Point or PSAP is a telephone number that connects an emergency dispatcher to the particular geographic area where the resident or business has registered with their local government. The provincial government can use the PSAP designated for their site for emergency calls.

When someone dials 911, and it goes directly to a PSAP, they’ll hear on the other end: “911 – what is your emergency?”. The article below contains everything you need to know about PSAP and 9111.

What Is A Public-Safety Answering Point (PSAP).

A public-safety answering point (PSAP), sometimes called a public-safety access point, is the facility that transfers emergency/nonemergency calls from any landline or mobile subscriber to local police, fire brigade, and ambulance services.

When 112 is dialed Internationally or 911 in Canada and the US, logic may be implemented by mobile or network operators to route the call to the nearest police station.

It is a call center set up to answer emergency calls in almost all countries, including Canada and the United States. In many areas, trained telephone operators are responsible for dispatching emergency services.

Most PSAPs can now determine the location of a landline caller. Many PSAPs also can locate mobile phone callers when their service provider has implemented handset-to-location technology (sometimes called phase II). Voice broadcasting can also alert many people simultaneously during an emergency such as a chemical spill.

In Canada and the United States, a county or large city is usually responsible for providing these services. As a division of U.S. states, counties are generally bound to give this—and other emergency services—even within municipalities unless those cities choose not to participate.

What Is 9-1-1?

911 is the number of people in most of the U.S., and some international locations call when they need help from police, firefighters, or paramedics; however, this may vary by location so check with local officials to be sure. When a 9-1-1 call is made, it goes to the appropriate emergency answering point (PSAP), and trained personnel send help.

9-1-1 Origin & History

This three-digit telephone number, “9-1-1,” was designated as the Universal Emergency Number, giving citizens throughout the United States easy access to a Public Safety Answering Point.

In 1957, the Fire Chiefs National Association suggested that a single number be used nationwide for reporting fires. In 1967, the President’s Commission Administration of Justice recommended law enforcement that a single number be used nationwide to report emergencies. Other agencies of the Federal Government and various officials also supported this recommendation.

The FCC and AT&T met in November 1967 to discuss a universal emergency number. Later that year, the company announced 9-1-1 as the nationwide code for phone calls involving an immediate threat or danger.

In 1982, Congress passed a bill that approved AT&T’s proposal for standardizing the use of 9-1-1 everywhere in the United States and mandated local telephone companies to absorb some costs related to modifications made at central offices.

In March 1973, the White House’s Office of Telecommunications issued a national policy statement calling for establishing 9-1-1 systems in every jurisdiction across the country.

Canada recognized the advantages of a single emergency number and thus adopted 9-1-1 rather than using a different means of reporting emergencies.

As of 2000, almost all Americans were covered by some 9-1-1 service. About 95% of coverage was Enhanced or Primary. Over 96% geographic U.S. is covered.

Reasons Why 911 Chosen

It wasn’t difficult for the FCC to choose 911 as a universal emergency number; after all, in 1967 they met with AT&T to establish such an emergency service.

They wanted a shorter, easy-to-remember telephone number. And they needed a unique one that had never been used before.

911 was the obvious choice because,

  • It is brief and easily remembered.
  • It can be dialed quickly
  • No other office has ever been authorized to use this number in its area codes for local calls

What Is Enhanced 9-1-1?

Enhanced 9-1-1 (E9-1-1) is a system that routes an emergency call to the appropriate 9121 answering point for the caller’s location and automatically displays this information.

When someone calls 9-1-1 from a landline phone, the operator typically asks for more information about what’s happening. This extra information is unavailable in most areas when someone calls from their cellular/wireless device.

Who pays for 9-1-1?

Because it is a critical service, 9-1-1 charges appear on phone bills, and there are no extra fees to call the emergency number.

An ambulance dispatched through 9-1-1 may charge a patient for taking them to the hospital. This is not related to the cost of using 9-1-1 as a phone service provider; it’s an extra fee that may be charged by whichever organization sends out ambulances in your area (usually, this will be some combination of local and county funds).

When Should You Use 9-1-1?

911 is for emergencies only. An emergency is any situation that needs immediate assistance from the police/sheriff, the fire department, or an ambulance—so don’t call 911 if you’re mad at your neighbor because he parked in “your” space again!

If you ever doubt whether or not a situation is an emergency, it’s vital to be safe rather than sorry: call 9-1-1 immediately.

How Do I Make A 9-1-1 Call?

In case of an emergency, dial 9-1-1 on your phone. It’s free with any phone: push button, rotary (dial), cellular/wireless cordless, or pay phones).

When you call 9-1-1, stay calm and state your emergency. Give the call taker your name, phone number, and address where help is needed.

Stay on the phone with the call taker as long as it doesn’t endanger you to do so, and don’t hang up until they have instructed you to.


I’ve heard countless stories from people about how they have used 911 over the years. So far, I have never had a reason to call 911. So while I’m not an expert on the subject, I hope this article helps others better understand what PSAPs do and how they can help us all in emergencies like heart attacks, police needs, and wherever else you may need it.


-By Brian Martin

Global Communication Services, LLC

GCS Out!