This is the first article in our new series, How Kent Works, where we will explain how different things in Kent work. If you have a topic you’d like us to cover, or expertise in a particular area, please contact us at with “How Kent Works” in the subject line.

Do you know when to call 9-1-1 for an emergency or when to call the non-emergency number (253-852-2121) instead? Colin Mills of Valley Communications and Kent Police Officer Dave Ghaderi attended a Business Block Watch meeting, hosted by Kent Downtown Partnership, to answer that question.

First, it is important to know that all calls are routed to the same dispatch center, Valley Com, who then dispatches the appropriate agencies and responders.

The difference between calling 9-1-1 versus the non-emergency number is the priority the calls take. Emergencies are dispatched first, in order of priority, followed by non-emergency situations.

For medical calls, always call 9-1-1, even if you think the situation is not an emergency. Stay on the phone with the dispatcher to share as much detailed information as possible. This will not slow down the response time.

Call 9-1-1 immediately if you are reporting the theft of a vehicle, the theft of a firearm (rifle, pistol, shotgun), or burglary of your residence. Also, if someone is injured, could get injured, or someone’s property is getting taken right now, call 9-1-1.

For other situations that are not urgent or time sensitive, such as a fight that took place yesterday or even two hours ago, or a car that was stolen last night, use your best judgment. Your call will be answered and prioritized accordingly.

Priority of calls received

Here are some examples of calls and how they are prioritized. This is not an all-inclusive list, and priorities can vary based on the facts and circumstances of a situation. These are merely guidelines:

Priority 1 calls may include shootings, serious injury accidents, hold-ups, etc.

Priority 2 calls may include physical domestic violence situations, auto theft in progress, burglaries in progress and fights without weapons.

Priority 3 calls may include verbal domestic violence situations, verbal disputes, hit-and-run accidents without injury and not blocking traffic, drug activity in progress.

Priority 4 calls may include incidents that have already occurred but are not in progress such as auto prowls, auto thefts, suspected drug activity not in progress, and burglaries.

Filing a Police Report Online

In addition to calling the non-emergency number, Kent residents can file police reports online for crimes that have already occurred such as car prowls, a keyed car, a rock thrown through a window, hit-and-run accident, harassing phone call, identity theft/fraud, vandalism, lost property, etc.

Being a Good Witness

No matter what type of situation you are in, it is important to provide the dispatcher, or call receiver, with as much information as possible. They are required to ask a specific set of questions in a specific order. Here are some examples that will help you in answering their questions:

  • If you are reporting that someone is behaving suspiciously, what makes them seem suspicious? Describe their behavior and their appearance.
  • If you are reporting a suspicious vehicle, what are the make, model and license plate number? What makes it seem suspicious? How long has it been there? Is someone inside? Is the vehicle running?
  • If someone is having a medical emergency, share as much information as you can – gender, height, weight, age, a detailed description of the symptoms, any medications the person is taking, recent medical history, etc. You may not be able to answer these questions, but the dispatcher will ask anyway.
  • If you suspect drug activity, describe in detail what you witnessed. The more information you can share, the better able a responding officer can assess the situation.
  • When reporting stolen property, if known, have the VIN, license plate or other serial numbers available. This data might need to be entered into the WACIC database.

Remember, if it is a medical emergency or you aren’t sure which number to call, call 9-1-1. For non-medical and non-urgent situations, call the non-emergency number at 253-852-2121.



Dana Neuts

I am a full-time freelance writer, editor, marketing pro and the publisher of