Does 911 Cost Money? The Price of Emergency Calls (2023)

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Many countries have an emergency phone number that can be called by anyone needing immediate assistance. In the US and Canada, the number to call for emergencies is 911. (Other countries use different emergency numbers, see below). You are probably wondering if you will get charged for calling 911 and how much?

In the US and Canada, when you call 911 for an emergency you will usually not get charged just for calling. Police and firefighter services are usually paid for by taxes and do not bill you for responding. However, in many areas, you will get a bill for ambulance transport services.

When you need to call 911, it is usually a very stressful time and the last thing you should worry about is money. However, you should be informed of how the 911 process works and when you may be required to pay for it. Keep reading for more information about when you may get a bill.

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Also read: How Much Do Firefighters Make? Average Salaries By State 2022

Will I Get Charged for Calling 911?

In the United States, when you call 911, your call is sent to a dispatch center. This is done based on the location of your landline or which cell tower your phone signal hits when you call. The closest dispatch center will get the call and a 911 operator will answer.

They will ask you a bunch of questions about what the emergency is, where you are, etc., so they can determine what type of help you need. They will send out firefighters, police officers, ambulances, or a combination of these, depending on the emergency.

(Video) Woman disguises 911 call by ordering pizza

The closest units can be right around the corner or miles away, this will vary based on where you are and the emergency service coverage. The necessary resources will respond as quickly as possible to help you. In most populated areas, it will be within a matter of minutes.

Using their training, equipment and problem solving skills, they will work to mitigate the situation and provide the best possible outcome for all those involved. These specialty services obviously cost money, but aren’t always something you have to directly pay for.

This video will explain how the 911 system works:

The models used for emergency services can vary, but usually, police and fire department resources are paid for by taxes. You will usually not get a bill from firefighters or cops. There are exceptions to this. In some areas, to recoup costs, fire departments and other city resources have instituted an emergency response fee, but this is still not common.

However, if you need emergency medical care, you may have to pay. The fire department will probably respond first with firefighter/EMTs and firefighter/paramedics that can treat and stabilize any life-threatening conditions.

The ambulance will also be dispatched and will usually arrive after the fire department. If you need transport to the hospital in the ambulance, you will usually have to pay. In most areas, the ambulance services are provided by private companies (74%) that will bill you or your insurance directly for any treatment and transport they provide.

Note: There are some places that use fire department ambulances for medical transport (26%), but they will usually bill for this service as well. There may be different models that don’t require direct payment, but they are not the norm.

(Video) When NOT to Call 911

Also read: How Do Firefighters Receive 9-1-1 Calls?

How Much Do You Have to Pay if You Call 911?

Does 911 Cost Money? The Price of Emergency Calls (1)

Like we discussed above, if your emergency requires police or firefighters to assist, you will likely be charged $0.

But, if you need an ambulance for treatment and transport in a medical emergency, you will probably have to pay and the amount can really vary.

The average cost of ambulance transport in California is $589, which doesn’t seem too bad for an emergency, potentially life-saving treatment. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Ambulance transport costs can vary widely and one of the main reasons is the collection rate and who ends up paying.

The average person with private insurance will get a bill of $1274! This is because a large majority of people (74%) either have no insurance or are insured by Medicare or Medi-cal. This means they may settle their bill for much less. Medicare and Medi-cal only pay a preset rate, regardless of the actual cost for ambulance services.

This means that those who have private insurance or pay out of pocket will pay much higher bills to make up for the rest of the money lost in the system. And an ambulance bill can be much higher than $1200. If you need to be transported in an air ambulance, it usually will cost $12,000 to $25,000 and it can cost up to $200,000!!

So the cost for calling 911 can vary from $0 to $200,000, depending on why you called and what you need help with. But most likely the bill, if you are transported by an ambulance, will be around $1500, though your insurance may cover some or all of that.

(Video) Eli calls 911!

Also read: How Much Does It Cost To Call An Ambulance?

Do You Get Charged for Accidentally Calling 911?

It happens more often than you think. Whether you just dial wrong or a child calls 911, an accidental call to 911 is not uncommon.

If you accidentally call 911 you will not be in trouble. You should stay on the line and let them know you dialed them by mistake. If you don’t, they may have to send emergency services out to you, as they do not know if there is a real emergency or not.

If you hang up after calling 911, they will probably try to call back and find out if there is a real emergency. Make sure to answer and tell them it was unintentional and that there are no emergencies. Don’t be worried, they are used to getting called by mistake. You will not get charged or fined for accidentally calling 911.

However, if you make a false 911 call on purpose, you can be fined. It is a crime (misdemeanor) to falsely call 911 and you can be fined up to $1000 or 90 days in jail, in some areas. There have even been discussions of increasing this penalty.

Also read: What Happens When You Accidentally Call 911? Important Info

Does 911 Ever Put You on Hold?

It can be scary when you have to call 911. It is usually a stressful experience and it doesn’t help when you are put on hold. However, it happens.

911 operators are expected to answer all the emergency calls they receive as well as dispatch all the resources needed for each call. This means that sometimes there are no calls and other times there are a bunch of 911 calls, all at the same time. They have to make do with the employees on staff that day.

(Video) Listen to 3 year old's emergency call after pregnant mum falls down stairs - BBC News

This means that sometimes, you may be put on hold when calling 911. This is necessary so they can manage all the calls they are receiving. Just know that they are doing all they can to manage these calls and will get back to you as soon as possible.

Also read: How Much Does It Cost To Become A Firefighter? Firefighter Answers

What is the Emergency Number in Other Countries?

If you aren’t in the US or Canada, the number to dial in an emergency is usually something different than 911. Sometimes dialing 911 will redirect you to the proper emergency line, but not always and you shouldn’t rely on it.

Here are some resources for emergency numbers outside of North America:

You should be able to find the emergency number for almost anywhere with these resources.

Also read: How Much Does A Fire Station Cost?


When you experience or witness an emergency, calling 911 (or other emergency number) is the right thing to do. You shouldn’t be worried about what it will cost. But you can be reassured that in most cases, calling will not cost you any money, unless you get transported by an ambulance.

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Is 911 medical service free? ›

City Emergency Medical Services (EMS) agencies will charge you based on level of call and distance transported. If you have health insurance, this may cover part or all of an ambulance transport, depending on your insurance.

Can you get fined for accidentally calling 911? ›

Everyone makes mistakes, and there is no penalty to accidentally calling 911. The Communications Dispatcher will want to verify your name and address, and ensure that there is not a real emergency. If you do hang up, they will call you back to confirm that you are safe.

What is a 911 surcharge? ›

Retailers of prepaid wireless telecommunication services are required to collect a 911 surcharge from their customers on prepaid wireless sales of $10 or more that are also subject to sales tax.

Is emergency ambulance free in USA? ›

It depends on the ambulance company. Some may not charge you unless they provide transportation. Others may charge for being called to the scene, even if you aren't taken to the hospital.

Do you have to pay for emergency care in the US? ›

You'll be charged afterwards, whether you can pay or not. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), a federal law passed in 1986, requires anyone coming to a hospital emergency room to be stabilized and treated, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.

How many phone calls does 911 get a day? ›

There are also over 3,000 counties that have their own 911 call centers. Each PSAP and each county is tied in to its own system and only handles calls from its designated area. In an average year, around 240 million 911 calls are made in the U.S.2 That averages out to over 600,000 calls per day. However …

Are cell phones good for calling 911? ›

Mobile Phones Aren't Landlines

When you make a 911 call on a cell phone, you are sending signals through the air. The tower that picks up your phone's signal may be near or not. That's not enough information for the dispatcher to find you.

Does 911 work on old cell phones? ›

“Non initialized call” is industry jargon for a call made with a cell phone that is not connected to a calling service. Your old cell phones collecting dust in your kitchen junk drawer can still call 9-1-1 as long as it can be charged and turned on, though they do not provide a location or a call back number.

Can you sue if 911 doesn't answer? ›

This is referred to as negligence, which means a person owes a duty of care to someone and if they fail to provide it, they could be in breach of their duty. If you are already injured and someone does not call 911, then you may be able to sue them for any additional injuries you encountered because of that delay.

What happens if you hang up on 911? ›

If you dial 9-1-1 accidentally, stay on the line and advise the call-taker. If you hang up, the call-taker is required to call you back. If that call-taker cannot reach you or a busy signal is heard, the call-taker will send police if the caller's location is known.

What happens if you dial 911 without calling? ›

If you dial 911 by mistake, or if a child in your home dials 911 when no emergency exists, do not hang up – that could make 911 officials think that an emergency exists, and possibly send responders to your location. Instead, simply explain to the call-taker what happened. Can I text 911 for emergency assistance?

What is E911 fee at Walmart? ›

The store will collect $1 for the E911 tax Seventy cents go to the county, 25 cents goes to the state, and then the store will collect an additional nickel and send it to the state Department of Revenue.

Are surcharges legal? ›

Credit card surcharges are generally legal, but some states have bans or restrictions: Connecticut bans businesses from adding a surcharge if customers choose one type of payment over another. Colorado banned credit card surcharges until July 1, 2022.

Why am I paying a surcharge? ›

Surcharges are normally added to the price of goods and services at the point of sale on behalf of the government. Surcharges allow businesses to indirectly pass costs on to the consumer by listing a charge separately from the cost of the good or service.

How much does it cost for an ambulance to come to your house in the US? ›

The average cost of ambulance services is around $1200. Still, the final cost can depend on many factors, such as the severity of care provided, mileage, the number of ambulance staff treating you, and the type of supplies used.

Why do Americans pay for ambulance? ›

Ambulance companies cite the costs of round-the-clock staffing, limited insurance reimbursements, and expensive inventory as reasons for high consumer bills. Ambulances provide everything necessary to save your life in an emergency and stabilize you on the way to a hospital ER.

How much does emergency cost in USA? ›

Including such multiple visits, the average cost for people visiting the Emergency Room in 2020 was $1,724. The median “typical” cost was $852 per person. If you bring those costs forward to 2022, by adding annual medical inflation, consumers should expect an average cost over $1,800 and a median cost close to $900.

What happens in America if you can't afford healthcare? ›

If you don't have health insurance, you're at much greater risk of accumulating medical bills that you may not be able to pay. In a worst-case scenario, you could be sued and have your wages garnished. You might even be forced into bankruptcy.

Is emergency medical treatment free? ›

If you are taken to A&E (accident and emergency department), a minor injuries unit or walk-in centre for emergency treatment then this is free of charge. However, if you are admitted to hospital for any other emergency treatment a charge may be incurred.

What country has the best healthcare? ›

South Korea. South Korea tops the list of best healthcare systems in the world. It's been praised for being modern and efficient, with quality, well-equipped medical facilities and highly trained medical professionals. Generally, treatment in South Korea is affordable and readily available.

How does 911 make money? ›

Many state and local 911 agencies fund their 911 technology, operations, training, and administration with a combination of surcharge fees and general funds.

What is the most common 911 call? ›

All that being said, “breathing problems” and “chest pain” are some of the most regular calls, as well as some form of musculoskeletal injury, from minor slips, trips, and falls, to multiple system trauma from motor vehicle accidents.

Why does 911 ask for your name? ›

Do I have to give my name? The call-taker is always required to ask the caller's name and phone number. This is in case we have to call you back, or the responders need to talk to someone who actually saw what happened.

How do cops ping your phone? ›

A cell phone "ping" is the act of determining the estimated current location of a cell phone. This may be accomplished via GPS data or by using cell tower triangulation. Obtaining a cell phone ping is a valuable technique that may be utilized for a variety of emergency situations.

Is it better to call 911 from a cell phone or landline? ›

In an emergency, a good old-fashioned landline phone has been regarded as the most reliable method of communication. When storms knock out power, cell towers often go dark, as do high-speed internet connections. Landlines, on the other hand, work without power or battery-operated phones.

Why do 911 operators keep you on the phone? ›

We may need to verify information to be certain that the correct responders are sent. It is better to put the caller on hold briefly than to transfer to another agency and the caller is then transferred again.

How does 911 know where you are? ›

Here's how they explain it: When you call 911 from your cellphone, the dispatcher does not see your actual location. Instead, dispatch centers have to ask your wireless carrier for your location information. The location information comes from a cell tower, which could put you miles away from where you actually are.

Will 3G phones still be able to dial 911? ›

In an article shared in October 2021, the FCC says as providers phase out 3G devices, anyone using those devices will no longer be able to make or receive calls or texts, including calls to 911.

Is it illegal for 911 to access your cell phone location? ›

In short, police cannot track cell phone location data without a warrant. Read on for more about the Supreme Court's decision, and contact an experienced California criminal defense attorney with any questions.

Can I sue for emotional distress? ›

It is possible to sue for emotional distress, although these claims rarely stand alone. For example, you may have suffered a physical injury in a motoring accident, where part of your claim is for psychological suffering resulting from that injury.

What happens if you call 911 and no one answers? ›

Most 911 call takers will call back hang ups to ensure there is no emergency. Seconds matter in the emergency number field, and taking even a couple of extra moments to redial a hang up and confirm that you're safe means that call taker isn't available to answer a real emergency call.

Can I find out who called the cops on me? ›

Calls to the police are a matter of public record. You can ask the police officer who comes to your door who called.

Why can't you FaceTime 911? ›

What is this? However, FaceTiming 911 depends on your carrier AND the capabilities of the dispatcher in your county. For the most part, though callers can use FaceTime to call 911, the call is usually received as a voice call without video. While it's not recommended, you can also email 911.

Can 911 operators track you? ›

Here's how they explain it: When you call 911 from your cellphone, the dispatcher does not see your actual location. Instead, dispatch centers have to ask your wireless carrier for your location information. The location information comes from a cell tower, which could put you miles away from where you actually are.

Does 911 Keep a record of your calls? ›

In California 911 call records are not exempt from the new CPRA (2020). This means that 911 call records are available for public inspection and copying in California. However, there is an argument that under 6254 (f) call records related to an investigation my be made unavailable: What is this?

When should you not call 911? ›

Do not call 911 for information, minor illness or injury, for your pets, or when your power is out. Whenever a 911 operator has to deal with non-emergency calls, it could cause a life-threatening delay in getting emergency assistance to someone who really needs it.

What city has the most 911 calls? ›

New York has recorded its highest ever number of medical 911 calls, overtaking the amount seen during the September 11 terror attacks, as the city continues to become overwhelmed by the coronavirus outbreak.

Does 911 work in a dead zone? ›

If you're in an area without cell phone reception you will be unable to dial 911 during an emergency.

Can you opt out of E911? ›

E911 Laws and Rules: The Basics

All facilities with voice communication access to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) are mandated by law to provide E911 service. No one is permitted to opt out.

What is the difference between 911 and E911? ›

E911 stands for Enhanced 911, and it's the part of the 911 system that automatically ties a location to the call—whether it's a specific address or coordinates. If we had to explain enhanced 911 (E911) in five words or less, we'd tell you that it's location services for 911 calls.

How do I remove E911? ›

Disable E911 Services
  1. Log on to your Flowroute Manage account.
  2. Click DIDS, and then click Manage. ...
  3. Select the check boxes for any DID for which you want to remove E911 services.
  4. Click Choose a DID Action and then click Disable E911 Service.
  5. Click Apply Action.
Oct 12, 2020

What states is surcharge illegal? ›

To date, only two states and one jurisdiction still outlaw the use of credit card surcharges. They are a result of non-qualified transactions of different communications methods.: Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Puerto Rico.

What states is surcharging illegal? ›

Currently, several states have laws that prohibit or limit surcharging, including, Colorado (prohibition effective through 30 June 2022), Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma.

Is it legal to charge for using a debit card? ›

Businesses are not permitted to impose surcharges for paying by debit card, credit card or electronic payment services. The ban on surcharges does not apply to commercial debit or credit cards.

How do you avoid surcharges? ›

Multiple Tax Benefits

A money back policy can help you save up to 1,50,000 on taxes under Section 80C, 25000 to 100000 under Section 80D and 20% to % TDS under Section 10(10D). This amount is a major tax relief to avoid surcharges on income tax.

Is it legal to charge extra for using a credit card? ›

There is no prohibition for credit card surcharges and no statute on discounts for different payment methods. Retailers may not impose credit card surcharges but may offer discounts for payment by cash, check or other methods unrelated to credit cards.

Is it better to call an ambulance or drive to the hospital? ›

All of this can happen while you are being taken to the hospital, which is why an ambulance is a better option than having someone drive you to hospital. Don't be surprised if the paramedic team drives past your nearest hospital and takes you to another.

How much does 911 ambulance cost in California? ›

In California, the median bill for an ambulance ride is about $1,200, while in Massachusetts it's $1,024 and $1,133 in Minnesota.

How much is an ambulance ride without insurance in Washington state? ›

Patients who require transport to a medical facility, but not the services of a "Medic," will be charged a fee of $950 plus $15 per mile transported.

Where is healthcare free in the world? ›

Only one country offers healthcare that is free for everyone: Brazil. The constitution defines healthcare as a universal right. Anyone in the country, even short-term visitors, can get health care for free.

What happens if you don t pay a hospital bill from another country? ›

If this situation happens to an uninsured US citizen, what typically happens is that the bill get sent to a debt collection agency, and may well never be paid, but at least the person is incentivized to pay or settle with the debt collector, as debts can negatively impact one's credit score.

What happens if a tourist gets sick in USA? ›

Contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a list of local healthcare providers and medical facilities. If your illness is serious, consular officers can help you find medical assistance, and, if you desire, inform your family and/or friends.

What do you say to get seen faster in an emergency room? ›

As your friend did, you can always try to drop a big name, like say you're friends with the president of the hospital. In general, if they think you're a VIP (even if you're not), you'll definitely get seen more quickly. ...

Is it faster to drive to the hospital or call 911? ›

According to the CDC, calling 911: Is like bringing emergency room resources to your door. No matter how quickly you think you can get to your local ER, first-responders can probably get to you faster, using lights and sirens to cut through traffic if necessary, and potentially start treatment right away.

Why is it expensive to call an ambulance? ›

Why are ambulance rides so expensive? Ambulance companies cite the costs of round-the-clock staffing, limited insurance reimbursements, and expensive inventory as reasons for high consumer bills. Ambulances provide everything necessary to save your life in an emergency and stabilize you on the way to a hospital ER.

How much is an ambulance ride in the US without insurance? ›

The cost can be nothing out-of-pocket in cities where services are covered by taxes, but usually ranges from less than $400 to $1,200 or more plus mileage.

Are ambulance rides free in California? ›

Ambulances are the safety net of the safety net; an ambulance service will never refuse to provide emergency service regardless of a patient's ability to pay.

Who pays for ambulance in WA? ›

Costs associated with ambulance services, whether emergency or not, will be incurred by the patient.

Does Washington State insurance cover ambulance? ›

The plan covers ambulance transport for a medical emergency. An emergency is when a person's health is in serious danger and an ambulance is the only safe way to get to the closest medical facility. There are also cases where medical vehicles may be needed for nonemergency medical transport.

How much does an ambulance car cost? ›

In his video, Alex explained: "A fully kitted out ambulance costs between two and three hundred thousand pounds.


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