“Be your own first responder.” If you’ve been involved in the online self-defense community for a while, you’ve probably heard that phrase. But usually, you hear it as an encouragement to carry a gun, get training, stock emergency first aid gear, and so on. You rarely hear it mentioned in another context that’s just as important: being the first to call 911 after a self-defense incident.
No Shots Fired?
To understand the importance of being the first person to call 911, imagine the following scenario: You just used your gun in self-defense, but you didn’t have to shoot. (Some researchers believe that this is the most common defensive encounter involving a firearm, and anecdotal evidence appears to back up that claim.) Let’s set the scene: You’re leaving your office, located in a busy strip mall. As you lock up, you see a suspicious male approaching. When you turn to face him, he produces what appears to be a knife from inside his clothes and demands your money and keys. Thinking quickly, you hurl your keys at him as a distraction and skillfully draw your concealed firearm. Your assailant recognizes that you have a gun and beats a hasty retreat in the other direction. The incident is over, and you never had to fire a shot. As you assess the scene before holstering, you notice a woman who was about to get into her car staring wide-eyed at you and your gun.
Why Should You Call 911?
Now, think about how that scenario plays out if, once you are secure, you immediately get your phone out and call 911. You tell the dispatcher, “Send help; someone tried to rob me at knifepoint outside of my office.” In the minds of the dispatcher and the responding officers, you’re the victim. That perception can influence officer behavior and how you’re treated on the scene. Provide the dispatcher with the information they need: your name, description, location, and any injuries. Then call your lawyer; if you’re a U.S. LawShield member, you’ll call the AttorneyResponse 365™ hotline and connect immediately with a real attorney, 24/7/365. That sounds like a win, right?
You Didn’t Call First?
Now flip the script. The woman getting into her car whips out her phone and calls 911 in hysterics. “There’s a guy with a gun outside the Northside strip mall, and I think he’s going to shoot the place up!” That is not the phone call you want officers responding to when you’re “the guy with the gun.” You’re going to be treated like a hardened criminal, not a victim until the police can sort out the scene.
Just the Facts
Calling 911 first can create an important perception in the minds of first responders. Calling 911, period, also creates a permanent record that could be used for or against you, depending on what you say. That’s why it’s essential to keep your 911 calls short and to the point. Here are some things you should tell the 911 operator:
- Your name;
- Your location;
- That you are the victim of a crime;
- What services are needed (such as police, EMS, or fire);
- A general description of what you are wearing to avoid any confusion by police when they arrive (“I’m a 5′ 8″ female wearing a blue shirt and pink pants”); and
- Essential logistical information that you may need to convey (“I have the intruder held at gunpoint in my living room”), avoiding unnecessary details as much as possible.
Confirm your address with the operator, then get off the line and call your attorney. The importance of having an attorney cannot be overstated, which is why U.S. LawShield offers its members the AttorneyResponse 365™ program. No matter when you call, you’ll get a real lawyer on the phone, not a call center operator. Even if you only defended yourself or someone else, you should never give a statement to law enforcement without consulting an attorney. Good folks can say the wrong thing, or forget to say something critically important, and wind up a victim for the second time—this time, a victim of the justice system.
Calling 911 first can help you avoid being held at gunpoint by the police. It also creates an important record when you tell the operator that you are the victim of a crime. If you’re lucky, none of that will matter, and your self-defense moment will be clearly justified. But you don’t carry a gun because you believe in luck, do you?