Emergency Protocol

Dialing 911 for police, a fire, or an ambulance is easy to do, but it may not always be the right call when the situation is less than urgent. 

At this time of year, East End dispatchers handle a staggering number of calls, ranging from life and death matters to requests for routine information. East Hampton dispatchers are asked, for example, what time fireworks start or when the evening beach parking restrictions end. In many cases, the information is available on the town website, on social media, and from local media. And, to varying degrees, police departments also have moved onto social media. 

The nonemergency numbers for each department are listed online. East Hampton Town’s is 631-537-7575. This also is the number to get in touch with the town Marine Patrol. East Hampton Village’s nonemergency number is 631-324-0777; Sag Harbor Village police are at 631-725-0058, and Southampton Town police (who cover the villages of North Haven and Sagaponack) are at 631-728-5000. Much of the time, calls to these numbers will be answered by dispatchers, who will quickly escalate the response if a true emergency is occurring. 

For housing, litter, noise, signs, and other code violations, the East Hampton Town Ordinance Enforcement Department can be reached on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 631-324-3858 or via an online form on the town website. In Southampton, the number is 631-702-1700. Complaints about loud or low aircraft can be directed to 800-376-4817 or HTO@planenoise.com.

But exactly what constitutes an emergency should be kept in mind. An emergency is any serious medical problem, such as chest pain, seizures, or bleeding, fires, and life-threatening situations such as fights, persons with weapons, and so on. When haste is necessary, such as when a potential crime is in progress, 911 is the right call.

Nonemergency incidents include accidents involving property damage, vehicle break-ins, vandalism, intoxicated persons who are not disorderly or a threat, and cars blocking streets or parking spaces.

In this age of unintended cellphone butt-dials, an inadvertent caller to 911 should not hang up but stay on the line to make clear to dispatchers that all is okay. In this situation, police recommend that you remain on the line until told it is okay to disconnect by a dispatcher. Officers spend precious time each day checking on calls to 911 that are found to be baseless.

It also is important for visitors and landlords catering to short-term renters to ascertain precise locations before an emergency happens. When every second counts, being able to give the 911 team a correct address becomes critical. Beaches here are marked with large orange signs to help pinpoint problems that might arise along the ocean.

Over all, 911 is a great system. Everyone can do his or her part to keep it that way by using it only when real emergencies arise.