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Communication FAQs

What is 911?

The Nationwide Emergency Number in the United States is 911. In the event of an emergency, this one number can be reached to report medical, fire, or crime related emergencies.


When should I call 911?

911 is for emergencies. If the situation seems urgent and has the potential to become dangerous to people or property, Dial 911. Examples: Crimes in Progress (ex. you see someone breaking into your neighbor’s house or car) Fires, or Medical Problems. If you are unsure if your situation is an emergency, Dial 911. All other calls should be directed to our non-emergency number at (605)626-7911.


What types of things should not be reported to 911?

Any call that is not an emergency should be handled on our Non-Emergency Line (605)626-7911. Examples: Lost or Found Pets, Water Main Breaks, or Crimes Not in Progress (ex. your car was broken into last night). If you are ever unsure, Dial 911.


What if I’m not sure whether my situation is an emergency or not?

If you’re not sure, Dial 911. Brown County Communications Telecommunications Officers (also known as Dispatchers) are trained to determine the severity of situations and send appropriate help.


What if I call 911 accidentally?

If you dial 911 by mistake, or if a child dials 911 when no emergency exists, DO NOT HANG UP. If you hang up, it could make us think that an emergency exists, and possibly send responders to your location. Instead, simply stay on the phone and explain to the call-taker what happened. The dispatcher will still have some questions for you, but you will not be in trouble. 


Can I text to 911?

Yes! Calling 911 is the best and fastest way to reach help, but if you need assistance in an emergency and can’t speak or safely make a voice call, you can use your mobile phone to send a text message to 911. Available statewide in South Dakota, Text-to-911 is a discreet way to report an emergency, stop a crime or save a life.


If I call 911, what will they ask me?

Brown County Communications Telecommunications Officers follow protocols to guide callers through a sequence of questions to quickly obtain information necessary for dispatching first responders to the correct location. Be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • What is the address of the emergency?
  • What is the phone number you’re calling from?
  • What is the nature of the emergency?

Answering these questions will not delay help from coming. In fact, answering these questions allows the dispatchers and first responders to assess what kind of response is required, meaning help can start heading your way even quicker. 


Why do the dispatchers ask so many questions when I call 911?

The dispatchers' questions are important to get the right kind of help to you quickly. Be prepared to follow any instructions the call-taker gives you. Many 911 centers, including Brown County Communications, can tell you exactly what to do until help arrives, such as providing step-by-step instructions to aid someone who is choking or needs first aid or CPR. Do not hang up until the call-taker instructs you to do so.


How long do most 911 calls last?

The length of a 911 call varies based on the severity and circumstances involved with each situation. This often means the 911 dispatcher will remain on the line with you until help arrives, allowing the dispatcher to instantly relay critical information to first responders.


What if the caller does not speak English?

Brown County Communications employees can get a translator on the line within seconds once the language spoken is identified. The translator will remain on the line throughout the call to relay information between the caller and the 911 operator.


I want to do a controlled burn. What do I need to do before I start?

When you plan to do a controlled burn in Brown County, please contact us on our non-emergency number (605)626-7911. First, we will ask if you have checked the Brown County Ordinance regarding controlled burns. If you have not, you will be directed to the ordinance information on the Brown County website. You will also need to check either the South Dakota Grassland Fire Danger Map or contact the National Weather Service to make sure weather conditions will allow for a safe controlled burn. Once compliance has been verified, we will ask you for the address, a telephone number you can be reached at, and what you will be burning. When your fire is completely out and no longer smoldering, you must call back into the dispatch center at (605)626-7911 to let them know that your burn is complete. Remember that an unsupervised burn is no longer a controlled burn, and the fire department may be sent.

Please Note: If you live within 3 miles of Aberdeen city limits you will need a burn permit. Please contact Aberdeen Fire and Rescue at (605)626-7048 for more information.


I hit a deer. What do I do?

If you are injured and need immediate assistance, Dial 911. If your vehicle is disabled and you can’t get off the roadway, Dial 911. South Dakota Codified Law 32-34-7 requires any accident that has an apparent damage amount of $1000 or more must immediately be reported to Law Enforcement. If you hit a deer with your vehicle, you have probably met the criteria, and you must report the crash. The dispatcher will ask you if you are injured, if the roadway is clear, and if the animal is deceased. If your vehicle is drivable and you and your passengers are not injured, call the South Dakota Highway Patrol at (605)353-7132 or Brown County Communications at (605)626-7911.


How do I become a 911 Telecommunications Officer?

The South Dakota Legislature has established minimum standards for employment as a 911 Telecommunicator. Minimum standards include, but are not limited to:

  1. Is a citizen of the United States;
  2. Is at least 18 years of age;
  3. Is of good moral character;
  4. Is a graduate of an accredited high school or has a high school equivalency certificate acceptable to the Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Training Commission;
  5. Has not unlawfully used any prescribed drug, controlled substance, or marijuana within one year before the time of application for certification.

For more information about the minimum standards of employment of a 911 Telecommunicator in South Dakota, please go to Administrative Rule 02:05:01 | South Dakota Legislature (

At Brown County Communications, all offers of employment are contingent upon the successful completion of a background check, a typing test, a hearing test, and a drug test. If selected, all new hires are required to complete an in-house training program. During that time our certified trainers will provide you with information about our protocols, tools to become proficient in the use of our phone, computer, and radio systems, as well as help you become familiar with local geography.  

If you are interested in becoming a 911 Telecommunications Officer in Brown County, South Dakota, please click the application link below.