How to Properly Test 911 Services on Your Cell Phone

Recently, OnePlus owners got a scare when users discovered the new OnePlus 5 would reboot upon trying to call to 911 emergency services. Other Android users then showed up to say the same thing happened to them—many on non-OnePlus phones. The last thing you need is for your phone to not work when you need it most, so here’s the right way to test 911 services on your phone to make sure it actually works.

Before we get into it, however, I want to point out that OnePlus is aware of the 911 issue and is reportedly sending a fix. So if you’re a OnePlus 5 owner, make sure you always have the latest software. This is exactly why you should always have the latest software on any device you use, regardless of manufacturer. Automatic updates save lives!

But if this whole mess has gotten the ol’ noodle wondering if you’d have that issue on your phone, then the time to address that curiosity isn’t when an emergency happens—it’s right now.

Step One: Call Your Local Police Department

The wrong thing to do is just straight up call 911 and hang up. That will get police knocking on your door to make sure everything is okay, which isn’t what you need. Those guys have far more important things to do than show up at your house for no real reason.

So, the first thing you’ll need to do is call your local police department. Just give them a shout on the non-emergency line to let them know what you’re doing. Tell them you want to test 911 emergency services on your mobile phone—if you have more than one phone to test on (if you’re testing for the entire family, for example), let them know that too. The more info, the better, but be brief. Again, these folks are busy.

They may or may not redirect you to a 911 call center so you can let them know what’s going on too. In my test case (where I tested seven phones), they asked the address from where I’d be placing these test calls, then directed me to the correct call center. I just gave them the same information I gave the police dispatcher: that I would be making several test calls to 911 emergency services from my mobile phones.

Some folks will say this step isn’t entirely necessary, but in cases like this, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Do your due diligence and call the police department before continuing.

Step Two: Call 911

I told the 911 call center that I would be making seven test calls, and I would be starting immediately. Remember, they need to know pertinent information like that.

Once everything is squared away, make your test call(s). As soon as the dispatcher answers and asks what your emergency is, let them know there is no emergency and this is just a test call. Also, let them know if you have more calls to make. I got a few different dispatchers during my testing, so I used the same verbiage with each of them. With the initial conversation, each of them asked who I was with—I just told them I’m a journalist conducting research for a story about 911 mobile services. In your case, however, you can just let them know you’re a concerned citizen just making sure your phone performs as expected with 911 emergency services. Easy peasy.

Step Three: Rest Easy (or Contact Your Phone’s Manufacturer)

If your call goes through properly, you’re golden. You can sleep better knowing that everything is covered in the case of an emergency. Congratulations.

If your call doesn’t go through, however, then you have a problem. You should immediately call your phone manufacturer and let them know what happened—this is likely a software bug that will need to be fixed immediately. Past that, I would honestly change phones, at least until an issue has been fixed. In an emergency situation, you need to be able to depend on that tiny computer in your pocket, not have it be the cause for more distress.

But at least now you know.

Cameron Summerson is a die-hard Android fan, Chicago Bulls fanatic, metalhead, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at HTG, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, spinning legs on the bike, chugging away on the 6-string, or being disappointed in the Bulls.