Dialing 999/911

So, my neighbour’s alarm sounds and I go round there with a key and a Big Stick.

There is no sign of an interloper but, to my dismay, I note that one of the bedrooms has been totally trashed. Items have been removed from cupboards and are strewn across the floor. Clothes are hanging out of drawers. One of the drawers is upside down on the bed, which is also covered by CDs, books, and documents of various kinds, including bank statements and cheque books. Two pictures on the wall hang awry, and ornaments lie as if discarded on chairs and cushions. Someone has been through this room looking for something with clear criminal intent. I call 999.

It turns out the alarm is faulty and the son (aged 30) is just an extremely untidy person.

Whenever I have been to the house since that time I’ve taken every opportunity to sneak a look inside that room.

It is immaculate.

  1. I was 15. My stepfather threw a dinner pate at my Mom and knocked her front tooth out.

  2. I was 19. My little brother was playing with matches and set his bedroom on fire.

  3. I was 28. The kid across the street from me was smoking in his garage and set his house on fire.

  4. I was about 35. My husband and I were driving home from a restaurant and saw a group of young men beating and kicking another man in a parking lot.

  5. Last year. I heard a car go tearing up our dead-end street late at night, then heard a terrific CRASH and then nothing.

I might have done it twice, I get the feeling I did it many years ago, but the only one that sticks out in my mind is also the only one I remember. It was about…3 years ago? four? It’s hard to remember.
I live with my grandparents, see.

That morning grandma was screaming my name from outside my room in the morning, I bolted out of sleep to find grandpa on the floor in the bathroom. I immediately called 911 and took control of the situation as best I could.
He was already pretty cold at the time…I knew he was gone. That’s what we woke up to that morning…

I hate thinking about it. It was such a shocking time. Death had never been so real to me.

I heard later that my mother was proud of me for taking swift and immediate action in the situation and stayed relatively “calm”. I can count the number of times I’ve heard her say she was ever proud of me on one hand, so that kinda meant a lot at the time.

In Australia the emergency number is 000. I would have thought a universal number for emergencies would be a logical thing to set up, but oh well.

Anyway, I called it last year when I was choking on some food, and I thought I may be about to die. But just as I was finishing up the call, my gag reflex kicked in and I expelled the obstruction, so I cancelled the ambulance before hanging up.

When I was in the UK and at university I worked part time at our student nightclubs doing security, called 999 way too many times.

  • injuries sustained in a fight (their injuries, we were more of the ‘get in the middle and separate them’ type of security)
  • alcohol related illness…of every possible sort
  • fire alarms (real and someone just playing silly sods)
  • bomb threats (thankfully none real as it turned out, but even in the early 90’s these things were taken seriously in Birmingham)
  • fights outside the club after closing time
  • staff being hassled on their way home after closing (we did run a minibus service to get people home but did have a couple of issues with people harrassing staff)

Two of the dafter things I’ve seen, after we’d got everyone outside due to a fire alarm one of the students decided it would be a good idea to climb on top of one of the fire engines and start dancing. Pretty stupid to start with but when one of the firemen yelled at him he jumped off…busting up his legs in the process. The second would be some daft git who decided to hassle one of the minicab drivers who waited outside the club. We were just heading down there since we knew the cabbies well when about ten cabs come screaming around the corner and the drivers jump out and come to their friends aid. In the end we had to pull said daft git away from the cabbies and get him inside away from their wrath until the police turned up…do NOT hassle people, REALLY do not hassle people who have access to a radio and whose job means they need support since they are often in dangerous areas.

…way too many stories from those years.

I’ve called a few times, all (IIRC) involved with my work as a cashier.

One gang fight in the parking lot - they arrived too late to do anything.

One dude assaulting his girlfriend in the parking lot - ditto.

One dude, about 18, so drunk that he could hardly walk - I thought he was going to get run over in the street.

One drunk, fat, deaf guy shoplifting.

One crazy guy tried to steal a whole big-ass coffee urn, then threw sandwiches at me.

A few car accidents I’ve seen from the window.

One car drove through the front doors, sending glass and debris everywhere.

ETA - once, I got off the MUNI bus, and saw a couple of guys dragging a lifeless body out of one of the public toilets here. The cops had already been notified, and it was apparently a heroin OD.


I was working at a gas station, and someone drove up and parked in our parking lot. His engine was on fire. Allow me to repeat that. His engine was ON FIRE. He runs in and grabs our fire extinguisher. I call 911. The guy manged to put the fire out with the extinguisher rather quickly. When the fire department showed up they looked over the car, but really there wasn’t anything they needed to do. I felt a bit silly for wasting their time, but the firefighters assured me that even a small fire at a gas station was a BIG DEAL and should always be called in to 911.

There were a few times that I had to threaten to call the cops because a beligerent customer was refusing to leave (usually because they had no ID and I wouldn’t sell them cigarettes), but they always ended up leaving without me having to call.

I’ve technically called 911 several times, but only because 911 and the non-emergency number both ring through to the same operator in this town, and since I was on the college campus I knew she would roll me over to the university’s emergency services (which had a different number I couldn’t recall) without answering.

First time was for a friend who had decided to tell a mutual friend of ours that she wanted to hurt her roommate and then cut her own wrists in the bath. The mutual friend had never dealt with something like that before and was freaking out, and I called 911 on the grounds that if she were serious, it needed to be taken care of, and if she were doing it for the attention instead, she needed it drilled into her head that this was an Inappropriate Way Of Asking for her needs to be met.

Second time was for assorted noises that could have been firecrackers or could have been gunfire; I don’t shoot and there was some worrying yelling, so I called anyway, just in case.

Third time was actually just a few weeks ago. My roommates and I were driving back from Las Vegas in an attempt to pick someone up at the airport and get everyone home, when the driver found that the throttle was stuck open, a few miles outside of Wickenburg. I called because said driver was busy hanging onto the steering wheel with both hands and standing on the brake pedal, with no limbs free for the phone. (T-Mobile gets reception from Hoover Dam all the way down to Wickenburg and probably farther south, for the record.) The operator was quite professional. We managed to stop the car on our own, but she had Highway Patrol out so fast they were parking next to us on the shoulder with their flashers on while we were still checking to see if we’d gotten all the really important stuff out of the demon car.

Ah sorry. My search doesn’t work, otherwise I wouldn’t have posted it!

Twice, once when I was mugged (they got away) and once when a kid got hit by a car in the street in front of my house (he wasn’t too badly injured). Both times I got a prompt, courteous reply from 999.

I called 000 one night last month when I saw a man walking along the street smashing the windows of parked cars.

Never. My car got stolen once but Detroit has a separate line just for auto thefts.

Oh, and I forgot one: I was working as an overnight operator a few years ago, and we had an crisis counseling organization as a client. Someone called up and, although they declined to have me page a counselor for them, they said a few worrying things before they hung up on me. I ran their number through the reverse-lookup directory and called the local 911 operator, who transferred me to the 911 operator in the town the number traced to. As far as I know, cops were dispatched on a welfare check.

The only time I’ve had to call 000 was in January when my husband suffered a massive hemorrhage from a duodenal ulcer.

I’ve never had to call 911, thank goodness. I read that why we have 911 as an emergency number rather than 999 is that children playing with phones will often press the same number consistently, pressing 999 or 888 or whatever; very rarely will they randomly press numbers that are far apart; hence, 911.

That was exactly the reason for our last call to the New Zealand emergency line (111) - maggenkid was about three years old and was playing with the phone. They were very nice about it.

This thread makes me think I should start a “Ask the 911 call taker” thread.

I would guess she was not busy- most 911 Calltakers (CT’s) i’ve talked to from a variety of centers, including mine, are incredibly pressed for time. While I try to be friendly, it’s usually abrupt and to the point to be just this side of being rude. Not that my intention is to be rude- but to get the point that seconds count, calls are holding, we need to be as efficient as possible.

Unfortunately this is an enormous problem across the country. The field of 911 CT’s is horribly understaffed. To give you an idea- our Centers goal, is not to have everyday with no hold time, but not to have any call holding longer than 60 seconds.

Even on a slow day something major can happen and every passer by with a cell phone is going to call until there are emergency personel onscene. Please don’t take this to mean I don’t want you to call in the case of an emergency, just understand that when you see a large accident occur on the freeway that one incident will clog the lines for the whole city.

Even something seemingly trivial, but that a lot of people see (Say debris in the roadway) can cause problems because we get a ton of calls on it until we get an officer out to drag it off the road.

I think that would be really interesting.

I’d be interested to see statistics for 911 call volume in the years before and after cellphones became widespread. I imagine that the ubiquity of cellphones has dramatically increased the number of redundant calls to 911.

If you decide to start an “Ask the…” thread, maybe you can start with this:

If someone calls to report an incident, do you have any way of knowing if the incident has already been reported to another 911 operator? Will there be a computer entry of the address or location, or something like that, which you can bring up on your screen?

I’ve called 911 several times and usually I get the “efficient almost to being rude” operator, but I just assume you folks are busy and, anyhow, 911 is not for chitchat. I give 'em the facts and, if I don’t need to stay on the line, I get off.

[quote=“The_Tof, post:37, topic:464721”]

This thread makes me think I should start a “Ask the 911 call taker” thread.

If you want to start the thread, I will help you out!

We are usually pressed for time at my place too. Depending on the agency, some 911 dispatchers not only have to answer the call, but they have to put it out on the radio too, so if you have a 911 operator being ‘short’ with you, it could be that they have to put the call out to the officers when they are done with you.

In my place, we have call takers and dispatchers, but when it gets busy, we all answer the phones. I’ve been accused of being rude several times, when the reviews were done, it was determined that I wasn’t rude, I just didn’t let the person accusing me ramble and they weren’t used to that.