Information on 911
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Information on 911

How to Reach Us – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If the situation is an immediate threat to life or property – medical emergency, fire or a crime in progress, always dial 911.

An additional emergency number (650) 573-3333 for incidents occurring within Foster City can be used.

The easiest way to reach us is by dialing the Police Department's non-emergency number (650) 286-3300.

911 Education

Use 911 to save a life, report a fire, stop a crime, report a suspicious person(s) or activity that is occurring (right now). 911 is the right number to call in an emergency when a prompt response is needed. When requesting the Fire Department or Emergency Medical Services (EMS) you will be transferred to the San Mateo County Communications Center for potentially life saving instructions.

When you call, we need to know as much as you can tell us about:

  • What has occurred?
  • Where did it occur?
  • When did it occur?
  • Any injuries?
  • Were any weapons involved?
  • Any associated vehicles? (License, Color, Make, Year, Body Style, Wheel Type)
  • Suspect description? (Sex, Race, Age, Height, Weight, Hair,Eyes, Glasses, Tattoos, Marks, Scars, Complexion, Hat, Coat, Shirt, Pants,Shoes)

While on the phone with the Dispatcher, EMERGENCY help is being dispatched. Staying on the line, if asked to do so, will NOT delay help from responding units. If it is possible and does not compromise your safety, do not hang up the phone until the Dispatcher says it is okay to hang up.

How You Can Help Us Help You

We understand that having to call 911 for any reason can be a confusing and sometimes frightening experience. A reality of our job is that most people who call us have been the victim of a crime or need emergency medical help. All of our Dispatchers receive months of specialized training and are ready to address your specific police, fire, and medical needs in a timely manner. There are also some specific things you and your family can do before and during your call that will insure the call is processed as quickly as possible:

1. Take a brief moment before you call to think about what you are reporting. If the crime is not occurring at the time of call, gather as much information about the incident as possible. When did it occur? Where did it occur? Do you know who may have committed the crime?

2. If the crime is occurring when you call, you will be asked additional specific questions by the Dispatcher, essentially becoming the eyes and ears for police officers who will be responding to the scene. While many questions may seem unimportant or redundant, most are highly necessary – such as information regarding drugs, alcohol, and weapons – information to ensure officer safety.

3. Another important aspect to keep in mind is our ability to multi-task during calls. If you are a victim of a violent, in-progress crime such as domestic violence or assault, for example, the call-taker speaking with you can also dispatch the officers to your location, simultaneously. It can often seem like the call-taker is delaying the dispatch of your call by asking you additional questions, when in fact the opposite is true. The faster we obtain suspect, weapon, and vehicle information from you and those involved in your situation,the better prepared the officers are when they arrive on scene. Again, your patience and understanding during these stressful calls is greatly appreciated.

Calling 911 from a Cell Phone

In the past, wireless 911 calls were received by the California Highway Patrol, whose operators re-directed emergency calls to the appropriate law enforcement agency, sometimes resulting in substantial delays. Dispatchers, who had no way of knowing where a cell call had been placed, had to rely solely upon information provided by the caller. This inability to track locations led the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to direct wireless carriers nationwide to develop a means to identify the location and phone number of wireless 911 callers.

This location verification system has some weaknesses as some older cell phones are not location-equipped and if the caller hangs up prematurely, the Dispatchers may be unable to approximate the location. In addition to outdated equipment, cell phone locations are not as specific as the addresses which are obtained from a hard wired line call. Finally, since cell sites often cross city lines and jurisdictions, callers may be directed to an agency other than the Foster City Police Department. Callers are advised to always know and be able to communicate their location to an emergency operator. In an emergency the public can also reach the Foster City Police Department for an incident occurring in Foster City by calling (650) 573-3333 from their cell phone.

Did you know that an old unregistered cell phone can still dial 911?

Yes they can. If you have an old phone that isn't hooked up to a calling plan or service you can still call 911. But there's a catch, Dispatchers are unable to return a call to these phones, so it's extremely important to stay on the line.

Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP

VoIP is a technology that allows telephone calls to be made over computer networks like the Internet.

If using one of the many VoIP services available please check with your provider to see how the system functions when calling 911. Many if not all require a "911 address" in order for an emergency call to be routed to the correct agency. Example:If you move to New York from Foster City and do not change your address your 911 call will be answered by Dispatchers in Foster City, even though you need emergency assistance across the country.

Translation/TDD Services

As a State funded 911 program, language interpretation services are made available through a third party provider. The Foster City Police Department contracts with Language Line Services for both emergency and non-emergency translation needs.

Additionally, all dispatch workstations are equipped with TDD/TTY detectors allowing Dispatchers to communicate with TDD's from their workstations.

What if I Call 911 by Mistake?

Do not hang up the phone

Tell the dispatcher you dialed in error

You may be asked as few questions prior to the dispatcher releasing the call.

If I hang up, what could happen?

Expect a call back to confirm everything is ok.

If you're on the phone, expect an operator to interrupt you for an emergency call.

Police officers will be knocking on your door to check on you.

There is an exception to this, Cell Phones.

When calling 911 from a cell phone the dispatcher will NOT know your exact location.

If you do not answer the dispatcher's return call, a message will be left alerting you the 911 call was made.

“Excellent Service—Every Call—Every Contact—Every Day!”

City Hall - 610 Foster City Blvd.
Foster City, CA 94404
(650) 286-3200