Must 9-1-1 callers give their date of birth?
August 29, 2010 5:35 PM   Subscribe

Calling 9-1-1; is it standard for dispatchers to require the caller's date of birth before responding?

In my community, the 911 dispatchers require callers to give identifying information - including date of birth - before they'll dispatch. I can see the need for name & address, but DOB?
Do 9-1-1 dispatchers require DOB everywhere in the U.S., or is this unusual?
posted by ahaynes to Law & Government (34 answers total)
I've never been asked my DOB when calling 911, either for police or ambulance.
posted by amro at 5:37 PM on August 29, 2010

Just a data point, but I have called 911 in Austin and Dallas and never had to give a DOB.
posted by pineapple at 5:37 PM on August 29, 2010

I've called 911 in Toronto this year, for both cops and ambulance (not my drama- I was a bystander!) and not been asked my DOB.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:40 PM on August 29, 2010

We've called 911 and haven't had to give our names or addresses. (DC)
posted by Amizu at 5:47 PM on August 29, 2010

Not in Los Angeles in 2008, not in Santa Monica in 2010, not in Sacramento in 2001, and not in a northern suburb of Boston in 1993 or Pitcairn, PA in 1999. Those are the only five 911 calls I've been around for.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:49 PM on August 29, 2010

I've never had to give DOB, name, or address when I've called 911 in either DC or San Francisco. Once when I called 911 in SF I gave them my address, but only because the building next door was on fire and I wanted be be sure they could find us.
posted by rtha at 5:51 PM on August 29, 2010

I've called 911 twice that I can remember [once I was in trouble, once I wasn't] and I wasn't asked for date of birth either time, in Vermont.
posted by jessamyn at 5:53 PM on August 29, 2010

I've never heard of that before.

The only reason I can think of is if the dispatcher were trying to keep the person calm or ascertain their state of mind. If you were really upset or if they thought you were drunk maybe they'd ask a question like that. If you're freaking out then maybe banal questions will make you calm down? Do you have a child-like voice? Maybe the dispatcher treats kids differently?
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:00 PM on August 29, 2010

Best answer: Some jurisdictions apparently make it part of their protocol. Dollars to donuts the data is used to run warrants on you -- if you show up as some flavor of "designated bad guy" (e.g. fugitive, registered sex offender, ex-con, etc) in their database, police response is probably calibrated appropriately.
posted by Dimpy at 6:19 PM on August 29, 2010

No name, address, or identifying information in suburban Detroit, Cincinnati, or Northern Kentucky.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:20 PM on August 29, 2010

I called 911 to report a homeless guy laying face down in the street, and didn't have to give any information about myself whatsoever (Milwaukee, 2003).
posted by desjardins at 6:23 PM on August 29, 2010

In Seattle no personal information is needed from the caller. The only info they ask if a phone number, in case the call gets dropped. Datapoint: I had to call 911 twice already this year, once for a streetfight, and once for suspected gunfire.
posted by spinifex23 at 6:24 PM on August 29, 2010

When I had a medical emergency, I had to wait as my call was transferred, but I never got asked my DOB.

Asking for DOB during an emergency call is stupid in so many ways.
posted by orthogonality at 6:25 PM on August 29, 2010

Nope. They ask for name, address, phone number when you call (even though this info usually shows up on their computers) so that if they lose your call, they can call you back.
posted by MsKim at 6:25 PM on August 29, 2010

Called 911 twice in Rochester, NY - never asked either time.
posted by Lucinda at 6:28 PM on August 29, 2010

I called 911 after witnessing a traffic accident, and had to give my name and cell number, nothing else. This was in Virginia in early 2009.
posted by gemmy at 6:29 PM on August 29, 2010

I literally call 911 dozens of times a year, on average, due to local crime issues. I have never once been asked DOB during a call, even when I had a medical emergency of my own. When interviewed in person by the police, however, I am universally asked to give my middle INITIAL (specifically that vs. middle name) and DOB.
posted by dhartung at 6:32 PM on August 29, 2010

I called 911 twice in the Chicago area, once for a downed power line and once to report an amazingly reckless (drunk?) semi truck driver. No information was required, not even my name.
posted by WowLookStars at 6:34 PM on August 29, 2010

when I call 911 in FL they always ask my first & last name, sometimes my number, never my DOB. (+/- 10 calls since about 1991)
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:37 PM on August 29, 2010

I've called 911 twice, once in Chicago (burglary) and once in Bloomington, IN (car fire in my apartment parking lot.) I was not asked my DOB either time.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:45 PM on August 29, 2010

ahaynes, are you sure that this is a blanket requirement for every 9-1-1 call in your community, or is it something particular that happened to you personally (or to someone you know)? If the latter, maybe you could give us some more detail that might be unique to the situation, to help us figure out why DOB was asked for.

For police reports (if you're a witness or a victim) the police officer will ask for your DOB. For an ambulance ride (if you're the patient) the medical personnel will ask for DOB. But asking for DOB for an initial dispatch is certainly not a standard procedure in any part of the world that I'm aware of.
posted by amyms at 6:51 PM on August 29, 2010

I get dispatched by 911, they can barely get an address for the call let alone personally identifying information. When I've had to call into different call centers, I've never had to give more than my name and maybe my (unrelated to the emergency) home address.

Think of all the stories you see on the news where a three-year-old called for an unresponsive parent. Surely they'll dispatch if a minor places the call.
posted by hey you over in the corner at 7:09 PM on August 29, 2010

It would not be a slow news day after someone's house burns down because the dispatcher didn't get a DOB from the panicked homeowner.
posted by sageleaf at 7:38 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, all, this is very helpful. It did seem bizarre to me that it's a requirement up here; glad to hear that the rest of you live in saner climes. I'll check tomorrow & see what I can find out about their rationale for asking.

(They asked me when I called a couple years ago, which deterred me from calling it last night, & today a neighbor told me that to his knowledge the DOB was still a requirement, and hadn't been much appreciated by a local shopkeeper with shoplifter in tow.)
posted by ahaynes at 7:56 PM on August 29, 2010

Response by poster: (I did still call after looking up the non-emergency number)
posted by ahaynes at 8:08 PM on August 29, 2010

Never heard of DOB being a requirement for dispatch. But in my jurisdiction dispatchers ask for DOB along with your name. Why? It makes it easier for police/prosecutors to locate you later in case you're needed as a witness.
posted by saslett at 8:24 PM on August 29, 2010

They ask here, it's used to check warrants / conditions / court orders and just generally identify who they're talking to, lots of people might share a name, its less likely that you'll share a name and a DOB. You don't have to give the info if you don't want to here, it's just part of the script, basically.
posted by jjb at 8:33 PM on August 29, 2010

NYC here. I've called 911 anonymously (a dude was getting SERIOUSLY jumped by 4-5 guys on my block). I'm sure they had my phone # from caller ID, when they asked for my name/address, I said, "I'd rather not give my info," and it was a non-issue. The dispatcher kept asking for identifying info re: the involved people and what was going on. The cops and an ambulance still showed up in force about 2 minutes later.

I've also called 911 a couple other times (car accident, other stuff). While I have given my name/address when necessary, I've never been asked for my DOB.
posted by AlisonM at 8:51 PM on August 29, 2010

orthogonality: When I had a medical emergency, I had to wait as my call was transferred, but I never got asked my DOB.

I work in a 911 call center. I am a secondary call taker for the fire and medical needs.

The reason that you were transferred was a primary call taker answered your call, s/he may work in a call center that covers several jurisdictions. S/he will ask your name, address, and nature of the call, to direct your call to the proper agency. Sometimes more than 1 agency needs to respond, auto accident with injuries is a multiple agency response. S/he will send me an inter office message via computer while she is transferring you to me.

I am a trained Emergency Medical Dispatcher and can walk you through, step by step on basic life support including CPR and childbirth until the medical personnel arrive. If it is a medical call I will ask the age of the patient and some brief history, this will be passed along to the paramedics that are responding to your call, so they can anticipate the type of gear they may need and bring it in with them.

The only time I hear the secondary law enforcement call taker ask for DOB is if the caller is reporting a criminal type of activity, the DOB is on the person committing the activity. Yes, they are looking for a criminal history and warrants, particularly if the history shows violent behavior or have involved weapons.

When an officer takes a report of a crime over the phone, they will ask the reporting person their DOB along with other identifying information.
posted by JujuB at 9:21 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been asked my DOB several times. I've reported assaults, a hate crime, an explosion/accident, break in, possible su* attempts, drunk driving, etc and I think I've been asked the DOB for all of those. But I have not been asked every time. It might have only been related to criminal activity.
posted by acoutu at 9:43 PM on August 29, 2010

While it's not the standard practice, sometimes I've asked for a DOB from the caller. Several reasons:
a) confirm who I'm talking to
b) I know it will be needed later and I can save the officer/deputy time
c) check wants/warrants on the caller

A lot of the questions you are asked depends on the situation you are reporting. If it was a life or death type of situation, I see no reason in asking pedigree information from the reporting party. A theft that occurred two years ago? I might ask the questions and just get them out of the way.
posted by GarrettCombs at 9:58 PM on August 29, 2010

In and around Augusta, GA they not only do not ask that information, but also respond to 911 hang-up calls based on just the information from caller ID. It is fairly common to hear in news reports that police were on the scene to investigate such calls. When I have called 911 to report such things as traffic acidents they want to know location, are there injuries, and so forth, but I don't think they have even asked my name.
posted by TedW at 6:06 AM on August 30, 2010

Do they seriously refuse to dispatch emergency services if you refuse to give them your DoB? Sounds like a recipe for a gargantuan lawsuit to me. I mean, does the area government really want to defend itself in court by saying "Yes, it's true that the delay in sending the fire department cost five people their lives, but the first caller didn't want to give us his date of birth, so how could we send the fire department?!"
posted by cerebus19 at 6:47 AM on August 30, 2010

Although it's not typical, DOB information has some relevancy in criminal activity and some EMS calls. In Rochester, NY (Monroe County 911) the operators get your phone number and address if you call from a landline and number, name and location (either via GPS if your phone is set to provide it or via the tower you're connected to) if you call from a cell phone. They will probably ask for your name and location anyway, and if you're calling from somewhere other than the actual location of the incident, they'll also ask for that location. All of this gets transmitted to responding agencies (police, fire, EMS) when the call is dispatched (police have terminals in their cars, fire and EMS typically have a terminal in their quarters). Your call is recorded and kept on file. Since it's considered a matter of public record, it can be retrieved by anyone with a FOIA request.

If you're one of many to call the same incident in, you might just get a quick "thank you" and that's about it. Or, as JujuB said, you may end up staying on the phone for a while assisting the victim until the responders arrive.
posted by tommasz at 9:43 AM on August 30, 2010

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