The ins and outs of living in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico 911 Experiences

Emergency Response Center in Guaynabo

Emergency Response Center in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico

Welcome to my Puerto Rico 911 Experiences page. In this page I will mention the experiences I have had with the emergency response system (911) in Puerto Rico. I am doing this so that you know what to expect and how to deal with it if a similar situation happens to you.


In October 2009 as I was getting home from work shortly after midnight, I heard several very loud explosions as if they were happening just behind my house. To give you an idea of how strong these explosions were, my side sliding door, which is VERY heavy, was blown in and some of my neighbor’s windows were also blown in and destroyed.

Anyway, I heard those explosions and I became really scared, I had no idea what was going on, so I thought maybe someone was trying to break down my front door, so I called 911. They answered right away and I went on to tell the dispatcher that someone was trying to break into my house because I heard really loud thumping noise in my house and then a door falling down (which then I saw was my sliding door). The dispatcher seemed scared since she told me immediately that she too heard that noise and was shaken up quite a bit.

After she told me that I told her that I would like the police since the previous week, my front door neighbor’s house almost got broken into and a house down the road from where I live actually did get broken into. The dispatcher told me that what I heard was not someone breaking into my house and then she hung up on me. That’s it. I was really shocked that the emergency response was “it’s not what you think it is, bye”.

Thankfully she was correct, and what happened was that for some reason there were several explosions in the oil refinery, causing a fire that took 2 days to extinguish.

Nevertheless, at that particular time, when the dispatcher hung up on me, I got out of the room, saw the sliding door blown in, my daughter’s door open and not hearing her; an oil refinery explosion was really not in my mind of possibilities, I almost panicked, then I saw my daughter in a corner standing in her crib, everything was ok then.

Phone Call Scam

Back in the summer of 2012, I had several missed calls in my cell phone, there was a person that kept calling me. Thinking that it was an important matter, I decided to answer the call the next time the person called.

The person told me that there was someone who was very jealous because I had a “thing” with 2 women (as if I were some stud), which is obviously not true, and that one of the women that I as supposedly involved with had a boyfriend and he wanted me to be “history”.

Well, I knew immediately it was a scam so I told my wife to call 911 since the person was threatening that if I hung up or didn’t pay $5000, he would have no choice but to do what he was hired to do. So I kept him on the phone, gave the phone number of the caller to my wife for her to tell the authorities and possibly trace the call (if it was possible).

The problem was that no one there spoke any English, and my wife does not speak Spanish, so she kept getting bounce around different people, none of which knew any more English than the previous. So, while I kept the man on the phone trying to see if we could get help, it was evident that my wife would not get any help since no one spoke English. I hung up and talked to whoever my wife was on the phone with which actually was the city police since no one else could help her.

I talked to the police officer on the phone and he explained to me that prison inmates have been getting pre-paid cell phones and making those calls. Ever since that moment I have not received any more random calls like that, however what was very frustrating was that no one spoke English. So if you don’t speak any English, please try to learn some basic words, just enough to get you help if you have an emergency.

Welcome to my Puerto Rico Emergency Response Experience page. In this page I will mention the experiences I have had with the emergency response system (i.e. 911) in Puerto Rico. I am doing this so that you know what to expect and how to deal with it if a similar situation happens to you.

Witnessed Car Accidents

I have witnessed two serious car accidents in the past 3 years, one of them was late at night and the other was very early in the morning (or late at night to those involved). They were both in the freeway and very serious.

Given that I am in my car in the freeway, and knowing how people drive here, I decided to call 911 from my cell phone.

To my surprise in both occasions, the emergency response center never answered my call.

The incident that was late at night, I was on my way home, and I made it all the way home with the phone ringing because no one answered. I then called from my house phone and they answered and told me that help was on the way.

The morning incident was when I was on my way to work. Same thing, I made it all the way to work and no one answered my call. I then called from work and they also said that help was already on the way.

Thoughts about my emergency response experience in Puerto Rico

These experiences makes me think that the emergency response system in Puerto Rico will not answer your calls if the area code in your phone is not a local one. I suppose that the fact that the accidents were at such an early or late hours, maybe they are not as fully staffed, however the fact that they answered so quickly when I called from a local land line phone makes me think that I will not be able to reach the local emergency response system using my cell phone since the area code is from the US.

As far as what people say and what you read in the newspaper. The emergency response times in Puerto Rico are much slower than you would see in the US. This may be due to the amount of traffic or where you live, but I have not heard anyone say that the ambulance or police got to their location within 10 minutes of the call. I hope I get to hear some better stories soon.

Back to the Emergency Services in Puerto Rico page.


  1. My family has a vacation house in Rincon and while we are fortunate enough to have never needed a law enforcement or fire/rescue response we do have friends and acquaintances who have … and needless to say none either of them have had anything good to say. I personally know two people who have died because of slow response times to emergency calls. I have also discovered that the State Police (aka Policia de Puerto Rico) tend to be much more professional than the city police who seem to be little more than glorified code enforcement officers. I truly believe that the cops, firefighters, and EMTs try to do the best they can do but sadly they are hampered by a lack of working fire trucks, difficult to find locations (remember, there are no house numbers and such), etc. A recent report on emergency preparedness in Puerto Rico by Homeland Security indicated that over half of fire stations only have one working truck.

    I understand Puerto Rico is far from the mainland, I understand the island culture is a bit laid back, but for an ambulance to not respond for over an hour is a bit absurd. This is Puerto Rico, USA … not some 4th world country in Africa.

    • Jay-Webmaster


      I agree with you and it is frustrating. Believe me, I am not trying to make excuses or defend anyone here, but there are many things that play a factor for the slow response, and let me tell you that it is not always that slow. BUT after considering what you said, the unnamed roads and houses and the scarcity of working trucks it makes it difficult to be as efficient as the emergency responders would like to. Also consider the traffic, especially in the metro, traffic is horrendous! If you are in a more rural area, the curves in the mountains makes it difficult to get anywhere in a decent time, add to that then the unnamed road or house without a number! So it is no surprise that it can take vary long.

      Having said that, I would like to see that the emergency manager agency to take these things into consideration and come up with a plan to reduce response time, because like you said, an hour response time is ridiculous, regardless of the reason; there has to be a better plan.

      In all honesty the city cops are good, depending on the city, San Juan and Guaynabo are known for having a top notch police force, very close to the PR police, however they do count with a higher budget than most other cities, so their cops are better paid, they have better equipment, and they are held to higher standards, possibly because of the higher pay.

      Now, you can pretty much ignore everything I said because I live literally less than a half mile from a police station and it has taken a VERY long time for the police to get to my house, I could have walked from the police station to my house in less time than what it took them to get here. So, sometimes they get there in an appropriate amount of time, keep in mind though that there are many reasons for the slow response, the ones we discussed and others which we simply don’t know, and maybe we don’t want to know! LOL =)

      The one thing I would highly recommend is for you to at least learn enough Spanish to call for an ambulance or police, don’t expect the emergency dispatcher to know English.

  2. Ran across ur page and just got back from living in P.R. for 2+ years…. called 911 when the neighbor was beating the heck out of his wife w/ a 2 yr.old present..took them an hour to get there(substation one block away). Called 3 times and told them if anyone gets killed next door, it would be their fault. If I knew what I know now, would have Never moved to P.R. – isla de loca should be on their lisc.plates not isla de encanta…..

    • Jay-Webmaster

      Sorry to hear your bad experience =( Unfortunately the 911 service has such a bad reputation that even the police officers have told me to call them directly at 787-343-2020 if I have an emergency in which I need the police.

      I have heard of numerous cases where someone needs an ambulance and the person dies because the ambulance either got there way too late (i.e. about an hour after the call) or never at all. However, I have had cases in which the 911 service has worked well, like when we had an emergency with my grandfather and my mother, so truthfully is not always bad. I do recommend that people learn a few emergency words in Spanish because the dispatcher will likely not know English.

      • I have read your comments and for some reason, you seem to always try to push the fact that not all that bad.Well, I have lived here for 10yrs and it is bad.Medical care is awful,police,fire,emergency the whole system is bad and behind in most of the system,so please stop from telling people that everything is fine when it’s not.My advice is to think twice before you move here.

        • Jay-Webmaster

          Hello Maria,

          With all the respect that you deserve, I don’t “push” the fact that PR is not that bad. I just say it how it is, and that’s how it is. Just because you think it’s bad doesn’t mean that it is, in fact, the medical portion of it is actually one of my favorite parts of PR, it is affordable and the doctors are amazing. In fact, I just met a man from Washington DC who moved here and he told me that his most shocking discovery was how much more competent the doctors were here in PR compared to in DC, and I feel the same way, I truly feel flat out blessed to have the doctors I have, if I ever move to another country, the one thing I will miss the most is the group of doctors that have cared for me and my family.

          Additionally, I recently had another 911 experience where I had to call the ambulance, and to my surprise, the ambulance was at my house in about 4-7 minutes, they were amazing, not to mention that the 911 dispatcher knew perfect English.

          I will not stop telling people that hings are fine or not fine. I will say it how it is, most of the time the “bad” things about PR are perceptions from others who then tell other people and they make a judgement based on what other people say without experiencing it themselves. Having said that, I am well aware that not everything is great and I have mentioned that in great detail through the various posts, but the difference really is on how the individual reacts to certain situations and not the situation itself.

          To prove to you how I don’t always say how wonderful it is here, I suggest you read the post Why people hate Puerto Rico and why you will too. In it I touch on the biggest complaints I get but I know there are more and I mentioned it in the post. Another post you might be interested in reading is called The wonders of renewing your driver’s license in Puerto Rico, you can see how I talked about the good and the bad.

          My advice also is to think twice before moving here, but telling people how awful it is doesn’t help anyone because what you think is awful may be something I actually like. An example is a conversation I had with a man regarding 2 different schools, we had completely opposite views, he loved about one school what I hated and he hated about the other school everything I loved, so like that, everything else about PR is highly dependent on how the situation affects the person. So no, I will not stop saying it is not that bad, because it is not, but I do mention the limitations and the pros and cons of living here, if it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea then don’t move here, if it doesn’t sound too bad then welcome to PR!

          Puerto Rico is FAR from being a perfect place, but it is the best place I’ve ever lived, however, it is an awful place to some, so think twice before moving here.

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