“9-1-1…What Is Your Emergency?”

You’ve seen the message on TV commercials and maybe even in school:  

If you have an emergency, call 9-1-1.

There are certainly times to call 911. On the other hand, there are a few things you need to know before you dial the number: 

First, all those calls are all recorded. That means there will be a record of anything you say to the 911 operator. Usually, that is not a problem. Other times, it could come back to haunt you. The operators are trained to get as much information from you and to keep you on the phone as long as possible when it is a true emergency situation. This is mostly to keep first responders updated as to what they are walking into. 

Remember, I said the calls are recorded. The recording never stops. Even if the operator puts you on hold, the recording continues. People have been known to have what they think are private conversations with a family member, when they are put on hold. The “tape” never stops running.

This has come back on people in situations where there is an intruder in the house. The 911 operator will NEVER authorize you to use force. On the contrary, he or she will tell you to avoid using a weapon or even put up a gun that could be used for self defense or to protect your family. 

This is partially because they do not want to have anyone armed when police might be called out to the scene.  It is also because they don’t want to be held liable for you possibly shooting someone – even if you are in the right.

With the audio from your call, there may be a “blow by blow” account for the police or other officials to review after a shooting. Louisiana generally allows the use of deadly force in your home. You could, however, have someone second guessing the legitimacy of the use of that force, and the call may not capture all the drama.  

In an emergency situation, such as an intruder in your house, the best action is to state your emergency, give your name, and hang up.  The following script has been suggested by security experts:

 “There has been a shooting (or someone is in my house). The person attacked me (or I am in fear for my life.)  Send an ambulance or law enforcement. My name is _____. I am located at _____. My phone number is _____.”

That is it.


If you stay on the phone, the 911 operator may give command like, “Put up the gun.” The audio may not get everything on record that happens. You may have to split attention between the operator and an unfolding crisis. Whatever the case, get off the phone. 

The police may not like the fact that you hung up. The 911 operator may or may not call you back.  Don’t pick up. Keep your attention on what is happening. Limit the call to the basic information – nothing more. Don’t mistake the 911 operator’s job of getting information with friendliness. Just stick to the basic script, and get off the phone. 

In the case of a shooting, assert your right to remain silent. The police will not appreciate it, but you should not make any statement, other than the fact that you were in your home and fearful for your life. Do not give details. You should not give any statements without an attorney present. Remember, the authorities could have an agenda, and it may not involve protecting your interests.

Written by Greg Gouner

May we help you with a legal situation? To schedule a private consultation, call the Gouner Law Office at 225-293-6200 or toll free 800-404-1921You can also fill out our contact form.

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