Cellphone calls routed to local 911 operator

Like many who have had to cut back on household expenses, we have eliminated our land line. However, our cellphone number is an out-of-the-area-code number. What happens if we have an emergency and need to call 911? Where will the call be routed? Will it go to our old location's (out of state) emergency services and then eventually get transferred to a local police/fire department, or will it ping off the nearest cell tower and automatically go to a local police/fire department?

— Jill K., Central Point

We've got good news for you, Jill, as well as for the thousands of other cellphone-only users in the area: If you dial 911 on your cellphone, you will reach a local dispatch center.

According to local dispatchers, a 911 call is routed to emergency responders based on the cell tower nearest to the location of the caller and is not based on the caller's phone number. So if you have an Idaho area code but are calling from Central Point, you will be connected to a local dispatcher.

That's a good thing for lots of people. According to the National Emergency Number Association, which focuses on 911 policy and issues, more than 331 million calls were made to 911 from wireless connections in the month of December 2011, the latest figures the organization has listed, but the total was more than triple the number of wireless calls made to 911 in December 2000.

So, enjoy your savings, Jill, and sleep well knowing your 911 call will end up in local hands. Oh, and keep that cellphone charged.

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