911 Information

Services and Communications

Emergency and routine communications for Police, Fire and Medical assistance in Provincetown is the responsibility of the Provincetown Police Department 9-1-1 Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). The PSAP is housed within the Police Station. Other responsibilities of the Telecommunications Center include police business telephone reception, counter reception, computer entry, basic records searches and essential clerical tasks. They maintain statewide Teletype communications, do alarm and jail monitoring, maintain radio communication and coordination between agencies. The PSAP operates on a 24-hour basis, seven days per week, 365 days a year.

How Enhanced 9-1-1 Works in Provincetown
Provincetown is served by an Enhanced 9-1-1 system. The name, address and phone number of the telephone used to dial 9-1-1 is displayed on a computer screen at the Police Station. Combining this information with questions asked of the caller, the Dispatcher determines which emergency agency, or agencies, should respond to the scene.

Call 9-1-1 to report any Police, Fire or Medical emergency. If you need help immediately, please call 9-1-1. Don't waste time; call as soon as you think help is needed!

Examples of when to call 9-1-1.

  • Car crash
  • Someone is choking on their food
  • Fire of any type, house, woods or other building
  • If you see a crime
  • Dangerous situation such as gas leak or a power line down
  • Someone is drowning
  •  Someone is hurt or is bleeding or is having trouble breathing 

What Should I Say to the 911 Dispatcher?

 All you have to do is answer our questions! Stay on the phone and answer the call takers questions as calmly as you can.

 We will ask the following: 

  • The Address where the problem is occurring.
  • We know the address of the phone, but we want to make sure the problem is at what address. If you do not know the address, be prepared to give directions or describe your location.
  • The type of problem.
  • Tell us in plain language what is happening.
  • Details about the problem.
  • The Dispatcher is trained to get more information while the emergency units are responding.

 If you would like a tour of the communications area please call Dispatch Coordinator Sarah Bartholomew 508-487-1212 or e-mail

Basic 911

In 1967 a US Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration recommended that a single universal telephone number be set aside and used whenever practical for reporting an emergency. In 1968 the Bell System announced that the three-digit number 9-1-1 would be reserved for that purpose. In 1973, the White House Office on Telecommunications adopted a policy supporting nationwide use of 9-1-1 Service, but left the responsibility for funding, planning implementation, and providing service with local governments.

The first Basic 9-1-1 system was installed in Hallettsville, Alabama on January 10, 1968. In Massachusetts Springfield, Boston and Newton were among the first major cities to use Basic 9-1-1 systems.

Basic 9-1-1 systems route calls based on calling telephone number, therein lays the inherent weakness and the reason behind the push to enhanced systems. In Massachusetts there are 351 municipalities; the municipal boundaries and telephone exchanges boundaries exactly match in only 10 communities. The primary telephone exchange in Provincetown is 487. But residents and businesses into Truro also used this exchange. Therefore when Provincetown decided to use the Basic 9-1-1 system there were instances when calls occurring in Truro were routed to the Provincetown location causing a delay in response.

With the advent of Enhanced 9-1-1 that problem disappeared because the software of the system is address driven and not telephone number driven. All cities and towns of the Commonwealth were required to provide complete street and number range information for their particular serving area. This information is the basis for routing emergency calls to the proper Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).

Address driven routing is only one of the features of the improvements of the Enhanced 9-1-1. This system has the capability of communicating through TTY for the deaf and hard of hearing. Each PSAP has it's own emergency power supply.

The statewide Enhanced 9-1-1 system designed for Massachusetts use of state of the art systems and will make Massachusetts a national leader in emergency telecommunications.

Provincetown was among the first 5 towns on Cape Cod to convert from Basic 911 to E911 in June 1994. Barnstable County was the first of the state's counties to have total E-911 service converted in just one year.

Enhanced 911 (E911)-MAARS and VESTA

In 1990 Massachusetts enacted legislation providing for Enhanced 9-1-1 on a statewide basis in the Commonwealth. This legislation established the Statewide Emergency Telecommunications Board (SETB) as the state agency responsible for coordinating and administering the implementation of Enhanced 9-1-1 and for promulgating standards to ensure a consistent statewide approach to 9-1-1.

The Enhanced 9-1-1 system automatically displays the address and telephone number of the emergency caller on a screen at all 9-1-1 communications centers in Massachusetts, commonly referred to as Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). There are approximately 270 PSAPs in the Commonwealth, some of which are regionally-based to answer calls for multiple communities.

The Enhanced 9-1-1 program in Massachusetts is funded by a surcharge on all wire-line and wireless telephones. Our program is considered one of the best in the country because of its coordinated approach and the redundancy and diversity required of our service provider, Verizon. All dispatchers and call-takers that answer Enhanced 9-1-1 calls are required to be certified through the SETB's training program.

In 1996, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order requiring implementation of a new Enhanced 9-1-1 system for wireless phone carriers nationwide. This order changed the SETB mission from focusing primarily on wire-line 9-1-1 to the new phase of wireless communications. As an estimated 50% of 9-1-1 calls are made from wireless phones nationwide, Massachusetts and other states recognize the significance of implementing this program. In 2002, the state created a Wireless Enhanced 9-1-1 Fund for this purpose, with a surcharge of $.30 per month. This surcharge and fund are used solely to fund the implementation and administration of wireless Enhanced 9-1-1 in Massachusetts.

Phase I of the FCC's plan requires all wireless carriers to provide an emergency dispatcher with both the telephone number of the person calling and the location of the closest cell site or base station transmitting the call; this phase was accomplished in Massachusetts in April 2003. Phase II requires wireless carriers to begin providing a more precise location to the dispatcher including the latitude and longitude of the caller (information must be accurate within 50-300 meters); this was completed in Massachusetts in February of 2006.

The newest communications technology is Voice over the Internet Protocol (VoIP), which allows voice quality calls to be made over Internet connections. The appeal of VoIP includes the cost savings associated with making long distance calls over the Internet and the ability to take your phone service with you anywhere in the world. However, these advantages could prove to be a major disadvantage in the case of an emergency.

Providers of traditional wire-line telephone service in Massachusetts are required by state law to provide their customers with access to Enhanced 911 (E 9-1-1). This system automatically displays the address and telephone number of the emergency caller on a screen at all 9-1-1 communications centers in Massachusetts, commonly referred to as Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). Because VoIP is regulated at the federal level, VoIP service providers (VSPs) are not subject to the Commonwealth's E 9-1-1 requirement. In June of 2005 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an Order, (FCC 05-116) mandating that all VSPs deliver E 9-1-1 services no later than November 28, 2005.

The SETB has worked with our E 9-1-1 service provider and VSPs serving Massachusetts to integrate the technology into our E 9-1-1 systems. Before a VSP can be approved to provide VoIP service in Massachusetts they must go through a testing process with the SETB to ensure the calls are delivered with complete and accurate information.

Next Generation 911 (NG911) 

The next generation of 911 call taking capabilities are cutting edge technology, such as voice, text, or video emergency calling from any communications device via Internet-like networks and advanced data from personal safety devices such as medical alert systems