Friday, November 9, 2012

911 - Horror or Humor

I was a 9-1-1 Dispatcher for about 2 years. It was one of the most interesting jobs I have ever had. It was also an incredibly frustrating, yet fulfilling job. I got to assist in helping a lot of people, but also had to put up with mountains of idiocy. I received many ridiculous calls which I will get to in a moment, but first let me remind you what 9-1-1 is for.

9-1-1 was established to give people quick access to emergency personnel. This would make it possible to get in touch with the proper authorities quickly. The number is to be used for emergencies that require immediate assistance.

For example:
  • Car crash with injuries
  • Currently happening home invasion
  • Domestic violence
  • Person spotted with weapon
  • Fight or riot
  • Fire
  • Medical emergencies

Inappropriate uses of 9-1-1
  • Barking dogs
  • Burglarized property
  • Power outages
  • Drug sales
  • Loud parties
  • Weather or road conditions
  • Legal advice
  • Keys locked in vehicle
  • Car trouble

Despite the knowledge people have that 9-1-1 is an emergency number, most of the calls received are not emergencies. When people call in for trivial things, it ties up the lines and prevents real emergency calls from getting through.

I am not suggesting that people should not call the police, but 9-1-1 is for immediate emergencies. Even coming home and finding your home burglarized is not an emergency. The thieves have already left. No one is in danger. Call the police and they will respond, but save 9-1-1 for if you catch them still in your home.

The worst time to work was during major storms. Everyone would start calling in to get weather reports, ask when their power would come back on and inquire about what roads were passable. While trying to get these idiots off the phone, there is a surge of real emergencies happening. Cars are sliding off the road. Fires are breaking out. Power lines are going down. However, the lines are tied up with non-emergency questions often causing us to be unaware of actual situations that require our attention.

Despite how frustrating the non-emergency calls could be, sometimes they were quite entertaining. I never ceased to be amazed at the reasons people would call in. Here is a sampling of some of them I can remember. Some were actual emergencies, but most were not.

"You might want to get out here. There are two dogs in the street having a 'verbal argument.'"
"Do you mean they're barking?"
"No, it hasn't gotten that far yet."

"Is it illegal for my neighbor to install a security camera and point it at my house?"

"I have told my son to go to bed  three times and he won't do it. Please send an officer out to talk to him."

"Without asking me, my doctor implanted a device in my arm so I can be tracked by the CIA. That's illegal, right? Can I press charges?"

"My son is 14 and had a headache. I gave him some aspirin, but..."
"But what, sir. Is your son alright?"
"I swear I thought it was aspirin."
"What did you give him, sir?"
"It was my Viagra. His erection just hit the four hour mark where the commercials say you should seek help. He's crying that it hurts. What do I do?"

"The 12 year old kid up the street rides by my house every morning on his way to school. I have told him to go another way, but he keeps doing it. I don't want him on my street."

After several calls we went out to investigate. The kid's crime? He was black.

"The sun reflected off the metal trailer of the semi that just passed and blinded me. Get someone out here to stop him before he kills someone!"

"If a dog craps in my yard without my permission, am I allowed to shoot it?"

"I have a restraining order against my husband and every time I call him, he answers. He has caller ID and knows it's me. He's not supposed to be talking to me. Arrest him."

The guy across the street says the cops are on their way to arrest me for having sex in my front yard. I pay property taxes and can do what I want in my yard. It's my yard and my wife.

"I came home from work and found half a car in the ditch in front of my house. Can I keep it?

"I came home from work and caught my daughter having a naked video chat with someone on my XBOX. Can you tell me how to find out who it was?"

"Every week on trash day, my neighbor puts her trash can right next to mine. I don't want her garbage associated with my house."

"My girlfriend told me I couldn't do cocaine in the bedroom anymore. Can she say that since it is my house?"

My neighbor's dog attacked my cat again. I killed it and threw it through his bedroom window. Who do I report this to?

"Send the cops here now! Seven lesbians just jumped out of my daughter's window."

"My daughter just called me and said her boyfriend is beating her up!"
"What is the address?"
"Aberdeen. Please hurry!"
"Sorry, but we don't have an Aberdeen Street."
"No. Aberdeen, Texas!" 

"Some Indian guy just called here and asked for my social security number. I gave it to him and now my husband says I should call you to find out who it was."

"Please send an ambulance. My husband has a deep cut on his stomach."
"I'll send one right away. How did he get cut, ma'am?"
"Well...I stabbed him."

I loved that job, but it really knocked down my already low opinion of humanity.


  1. Haha, one of my favorites from my dispatcher days was during an ice storm, some yahoo called and asked if a tree falls on his car, is the university responsible since its on their property. I finally was able to establish he was parked in an otherwise empty parking lot next to a tree on the campus. Go move your tree, idiot!

    1. Sounds like you can relate. I was daily surprised at the idiocy and audacity of so many people.

      Plus, I'll bet I said 20 times a day, "I cannot give legal advice. That's a question for a lawyer."

  2. This is utterly hilarious! I loved the one about 7 lesbians jumping out of the daughter's bedroom window.

    Can I ask why you left the job? I imagine that it's quite stressful so I'd imagine they have a large staff turnover.

    1. I actually got fired. It is a story I plan to tell, but need to let some time pass first.

      It was a stressful job, but there wasn't much of a turnover rate. The people in my department stuck around for years. I had no intention of going anywhere, but made a mistake.

      I actually knew the guy calling about the lesbians. He was given a hard time about it later.

  3. Some of them are so funny, and some are actually really sad, like the kid on the bike. I was bummed when I got to the end of the list, because funny or sad, those were fascinating! I can't imagine doing that job and managing to stay professional amidst all that stupidity.

    1. It was heartbreaking at times to know of a situation that was beyond the scope of what we could do. Or seeing firsthand some of the horrors of what people can do to each other.

      Other times, trying not to laugh was a challenge. The most ridiculous calls would come in and they expected to be taken seriously.

  4. "I came home from work and found half a car in the ditch in front of my house. Can I keep it?"

    That is Southern Illinois summed up in two sentences. haha

    1. Yes. Very entertaining call. He had no curiosity as to how it got there. He just wanted it to be his.

  5. In a way, I'm hoping there is a part two to this because it was absolutely hilarious. However, I'm also scared there is a second part because then I might have to weep for humanity...after I stop laughing at all of the idiots.

    My favorites were the lesbian one and the social security one.

    1. I could write books on this topic, but probably shouldn't for confidentiality reasons. I sure I could share a few more stories, but have to be careful.

  6. People can be such idiots.
    I love the guy who "accidentally" gave his son viagra. Isn't it a pretty obvious purple pill? Just sayin'.

    That and the barking dogs. But I think that stands as your best snarky response. :)

    1. He was one of those idiots that mixes his medications together instead of keeping them separated. He took a tablet out of a bottle and didn't check to make sure it was what he thought it was.

  7. I actually work for a company that develops the software that 9-1-1 dispatchers use. I've sat in for a few hours at the city's dispatch center. I firmly believe we should go back to the days of natural selection. If you're too stupid to keep yourself alive, well....

    1. There were several families that I became familiar with over time. After enough calls, I would be tempted to just let them kill each other, know...lawsuits and stuff.

  8. but if natural selection truly was in play, who would we laugh at for their vapidity?

    1. There would always be new idiots born in each generation.

  9. I am trying to catch up on your blogs and came across this one. I am crying from laughing so hard! I remember a lot of these calls! Good times my friend. Good times. :)

  10. Very funny, Brett. I too happen to remember one of those calls. ;)


    1. Ha. I didn't know if you would ever see this. Glad you enjoyed it.

  11. So funny, especially the Viagra one. I don't understand calling 911 in non-emergencies, and I actually had the impression it was illegal to call with most of these problems. But I guess, how would they really enforce or define that?
    Hopefully these days Google is a good alternative for people

    1. I is illegal to call 911 for no-emergency stuff, however, it is not really enforced unless you become a repeat problem caller.

      We did go after one lady because she called all the time.

  12. Replies
    1. Thank you. It was always entertaining when I went in to work.

  13. I found you through the I Don' Mondays blog hop. I have been a dispatcher for 23 year,and hearrily agree that unneccessary 911 calls are a bane of our existence. That and parent who give their cellphones to ttheir babies for ch3w toys. Nice selection of dumb calls too.

    1. The baby calls drove me nuts. Especially when they call 20 times in one night and are too young to respond to requests to talk to their parents. I wanted to choke those people.

  14. OMG it would be SO hard not to mess with that guy who thought the doctor put a CIA chip in his arm!! Seriously, you have to try to remember what you said to that guy!!

    My sister and I (around age 7?) decided we were going to make prank calls. But the only number we knew was 911 (we didn't get the fact you were supposed to dial random numbers.) So we called, said, "See ya later alligator!" laughed hysterically and then hung up. The 911 operator called back and said, "After while crocodile, you know it's illegal to call 911 unless it's an emergency, right?"

    Cured us forEVER of making prank calls.

    1. The CIA chip call was a woman and I talked to her for over 20 minutes. She was convinced and had no interest in talking about whether it had happened or not. Shoe only wanted to know what she could do about it.

      She knew she was being tracked somehow because the people she tried to get away from by moving kept finding her.


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