How often have you called 911?

I’ve never called it for myself, nor to report a crime in progress, but I’ve called a few times on behalf of my elderly folks—once when the old man looked like he was blacking out or about to have a stroke; and a couple of times when mom had such severe back and neck pain and spasms that she could barely move or even change out of her nightgown. If I’d thought they could have waited, I would have just called for an ambulance transport, but that would have taken 45 minutes.

  These were all calls made from their home, too.

Have you called? How often? From where? What for?

I called about two years ago when I broke my ankle spectacularly on my front porch. I sent the kids across the street to get the neighbors before I realized that I had a cell phone in my pocket. The neighbors watched them while the ambulance took me away until Cowboy could come get them.

I don’t remember anything about the operator, just that it seemed to take a long time to connect on the cell phone. I was in shock; I don’t remember lots of things about that night.

I called once from the scene of a car accident. My husband and I were first to come upon it and, since he knows a lot about first aid, I made the call while he figured out what the injuries were. There were two very hurt people in two different cars. Luckily, the next guy to drive up was an off-duty EMT, so he took one person and my husband helped out the other guy. By the time the ambulance arrived, one of the guys had died. The other was actually pretty lucid and had called 911 himself, even though he’d had a car flip over and land on top of his car and he had head injuries.

The other time I “called” was an accident. We had a bad rainstorm and water leaked into our house. The phone wires got wet and I guess some sort of short happened. Bizarrely, this resulted in a call to the local emergency dispatch office that, to them, sounded like someone calling and hanging up. They sent a cop out to check out the situation. They came in and looked around to make sure we weren’t beating each other up and trying to hide it.

Just once, from my mom’s house, for an ambulance to take her to the hospital to die.

Three times.

Ack! What happened there?


  1. I’m repairing and adjusting the automatic sprinkler system at my mother’s new home. The previous owner had just ignored the system, so there was lots to repair. The system is water controlled – little tubes of water run all over the place to control valves. The water supply is a little tap off a pipe in the basement, and the valve on the tap began leaking when we turned it on in the spring. Not much, but a steady drip onto the basement floor. I got a new tap to replace it, and began this project while home alone one day. When I unscrew the old tap to replace it, a tremendous gusher of water is released. It’s a small tap, maybe 1/8" or 3/16", but water is hitting the opposite wall – 22’ away. Panic ensued, as the replacement tap won’t screw into the hole – no wonder, as it is the wrong size! I called 911 to get some help before the whole house flooded, and was promptly put on hold. While on hold, I figured out that I’d best do something, and quick, so I put the old tap back in, and all was fixed. When I got back to the phone, the 911 operator was upset that I’d walked away, but I was so happy that I’d fixed the problem that I didn’t even argue with her. We ended up putting a bucket under the tap, and after about 3 months it stopped leaking on it’s own. I was 17 years old, thank goodness, or the adrenaline rush from this event would have likely stopped my heart. My heart is racing just thinking about it, 30 years later!

  2. Was sitting in my living room in Denver, when I heard a car come squealing around the corner, two houses down. As this was a quiet neighborhood, I jumped up to look out the window, just in time to see a car fishtailing up the street. The driver lost control of the car, jumped the curb, and ran into the house across the street, smashing the brick facade. CRASH! Then the car backed off the lawn and drove away. I called 911 with the license number and a description of the driver and the single passenger, both teenagers. The police came, and a few minutes later the same car came back, with a different driver, and the original, teenage driver as the passenger. Turns out to be the kids father driving the car this time. I ended up going to court as a witness for the prosecution, and after a pre-trial interview the defense lawyer decided to throw his client on the mercy of the court. The house needed some repair, but the car was fine, actually. just a scratch on the bumper. Olds Cutlass, IIRC.

  3. Sitting on my front porch in San Diego, when I heard a car coming up the street making a horrible noise. I thought “That sounds like a Chrysler starter” as a Dodge Dart pulls over in front of the neighbors house. A woman and two children bail out, and as I watch I see molten metal falling from under the dash onto the floor through the open passenger door. Within seconds the car is aflame, and I call 911 as it continues to burn. Fortunately there are no other cars nearby, as I’m over 50’ away and have to back off – it’s too hot. The flames leaped at 30’ in the air, and the car was a smoking hulk within minutes. The fire department didn’t even try using any water – they broke out the back window and used some sort of powder extinguisher. Pretty exciting. Seemed like the ignition switch had stuck on ‘Start’, causing a lot of heat in the circuit, plus running the starter motor all the time. Turns out that I knew the car owner – she was an (ahem) exotic dancer at a club I had been to once or twice. Or more – who’s counting?

Three times.

  1. When my mom had stopped taking her meds and wandered off in the middle of the night.

  2. My toddler son got his head stuck between the bars of his new big-boy bed.

  3. My neighbor was burning to death in his backyard.

I called for an attempted suicide of a friend my freshman year of college. She took a bottle of ibuprofen and knocked on my door at 2 AM, crying. She was fine, and is now a nurse.

I didn’t have to call once. About 10 years ago a friend of mine was in a car accident not too far from my house, so my mother and I went to keep her company until her mom could get there to drive her home. The owners of the yard that contained the telephone pole she hit called, they had had a second telephone line put in because so many people crashed in their front yard. While we were there with the cops and the ambulance, another person crashed in exactly the same way.

I called when a kid kicked in one of the panels of my front door at midnight for the hell of it. I know it was a kid because his shoe flew off into my house. Freaked him out as much as me, and he beat in most of the rest of my door (the wood was old and brittle, the dead bolt new and stong) until he could reach in and get the shoe back. I was narrating these events to the 911 operator and screaming “I’m on the phone with 911” the whole time.

It was a new athletic shoe, looked expensive. Kid looked young and punkish. Cops were there in a few minutes, but they never caught the kid.

I’ve dialled the number myself twice, and had a friend dial it in my apartment on another occasion.

The two times i dialled it myself were both for car accidents. For my first three years in Baltimore, i lived near a corner where many people would engage in one of this city’s most popular passtimes—running the red light. The result, at this particular intersection, was often a huge “crash,” with no preliminary screeching of brakes or blaring of horns. I’d grab my cordless phone, run onto the front porch to make sure that an accident had occurred, and call 911.

The other time, i was sitting in my apartment watching TV with a friend when we heard a strange noise outside. We pulled back the curtain and looked out to see five teenagers mugging a guy. She ran to the phone and i ran for the door. By the time i got out the front door the kids were running around the corner half a block away (not sure what i would have done if they were still there), and the victim was lying on the sidewalk. He had a couple of minor scrapes and a bloody nose, but mostly he was shaken up.

Before i moved to the US, i once called the Australian equivalent (the number is 000) because a friend of mine had gotten extremely drunk and i was worried for her safety. She got taken to the hospital (i rode in the ambulance with her) and had to have her stomach pumped.

By me or someone with me: Twice for fires, one in an empty house, one in a skip. Twice for physical fights between couples, in both the woman was getting the worst of it. Once for my own broken ankle. The last was notable for the following exchange:

Operator “I’ll put you on hold for a moment while I speak to ambulance control.”
Me, relaxing the control that was stopping me from swearing, “Pink pink, purple, orange, orange, orange, BLUE!” (not quite those words, obviously.)
Operator, sweetly, “It’s alright, I can still hear you!”
Me :o

Assuming we can include 999 in here :wink: …and in no particular order:

  • After being mugged, walking the 100yds back home, and giving a full description (nope, they didn’t catch him)

  • Kids joyriding in the field opposite my house

  • Smelling burning plastic from a supposedly-closed toilet building

  • After being held up at gunpoint

I have called 911 twice. Both times, I called when a relative had died in my house. In one case, the dispatcher insisted on giving CPR instructions even though the body was cold and stiff. I guess the dispatchers are told to operate on the assumption that it’s worth a try to revive anybody.

Twice. The first time was to report a spectacular auto accident that I had just witnessed on the I-10. The second time was when my mom took a header at the neighbors and fractured her left kneecap. dad was trying to jury-rig a stretcher so he could put her in the car and drive her to the Emergency Room. I took one look, told him he was an idiot, and dialled 911. Ambulance was there in 8 minutes.

Reported two wrongway drivers on a 4 lane (on my side). It was a little before midnight and foggy, and I presume that one was following the other after leaving a nearby town.

Called after witnessing a man outside of his car arguing with a woman in a pick-up at an intersection who got in his and hauled ass after the woman when she decided to go.

Reported another wrong way driver on my side on the same four lane highway at night.

Reported a grass fire.

Reported a car with teenagers going at a high rate of speed in a residential neighborhood.

Reported a transformer on fire.

And my first, as a kid, when a another kid got his eye shot out with a BB gun at my house when I was in 6th grade.

Used non-ermegency numbers a couple of times to report vandalisms and thefts.

Yes, you can certainly include calls to 999, 000, or any other emergency call codes in any country. Sorry–didn’t mean to exclude others.

Six times that I remember for sure, maybe a couple of others.

Once to report a parked car with smoke coming out of the engine compartment.

Once (on a cell phone) to report an impaired driver weaving across lanes of traffic ahead of me.

Once to report a man chasing a woman, who was screaming for help, down the street.

Once when I heard a fight break out at a party next door, and I heard someone in the group say they were going to get their shotgun.

Once when I witnessed a man breaking into a car late at night. By the time the police arrived he had stolen it.

Once when I saw a kid jump a fence and jimmy open an apartment window and go in. It turned out he lived there and had forgotten his key.

I’ve called 911 three times:

-once to report an elderly man having a seizure on the street;
-once to report a fellow who was unconscious, also on the street;
-once when a pregnant woman passed out next to us at a Tim Horton’s.

Three times:

  1. To report a single car accident I witnessed, where a car went straight into a power pole.

  2. To report a drunk driver. They arrested her.

  3. To get an ambulance to pick up my grandmother, who was obviously in terrible distress, but the rest of my family was standing around not knowing what to do.

After I posted my reply and went to feed my friend’s horses, I came across traffic stopped in the road for no apparent reason. People were going around something that I couldn’t see, and I sighed, thinking it was probably a dog hit and I would have to get out and drag it out of the road.

But no, it was a shirtless guy laying face down in the middle of my lane on a county highway. He was most definitely alive, as he seemed to be throwing what looked like a slow-motion tantrum, moaning and slowly waving his arms and legs. Freaked me out, but he didn’t look at all injured. I called 911 for that after I’d passed him. I sure wasn’t going to get out by myself and get anywhere near what looked like might be a freaking out tweaker.

The sheriff department and an ambulance passed me before I’d got a mile down the road. I’m very curious as to what was going on, but not curious enough to stick around in that neighborhood.

So make that twice I’ve called 911.