Working in emergency response can be stressful. You're often talking people through one of the worst moments of their lives.
Every now and then, though, you get a call that doesn't seem all that urgent at all. You may even have people start the call with "I'm not sure if this is an emergency or not, but..."
You'll also get your share of pranks, kids playing around on phones, or phones that dial emergency services on their own thanks to butt-dials and strange wiring. Thing is, not all of those not-that-urgent calls will be easy.
Reddit user electrickgaming asked: 911 Dispatchers of Reddit, what is a seemingly dumb call you got which turned out to be serious?
People's responses were pretty incredible, but be warned - they're decently intense. There will be mention of death, gore, violence, etc. Proceed with caution, as some of these entries can be triggering.
The Monster In The ClosetGiphy
I was USAF Security Forces a looooooooong time ago.
Call was a kid home alone complaining about a monster in the closet... which was a bit weird, because the kid seemed too old for that. So we go check and OHMYGOD, there's a snake in the closet that's got to be at least 150 pounds. Promptly closed the closet door and noped right on out of that, kid in hand.
Called Animal Control
Parent arrives first and indicates they don't even own a snake, let alone a people-sized snake.
All parties agree "monster in closet" was accurate-enough description of event.
Silly Old Man
Not dumb, but it was a seemingly minor call by the way it was portrayed to me - and ended up being very serious.
An elderly woman called her doctor (ie standard gp at her local clinic) and said her husband had accidentally shot himself and she needed to let them know. The GP called emergency and lets us know as they thought it sounded minor, but police needed to be aware due to the gun aspect.
I call her and she sounds very surprised Police were calling her and says in her old lady voice "Oh you know hes a silly old man, he's shot himself in the garage."
I ask where he is injured and she says "He's shot himself in the face" - completely calm and serious. He had blown half his jaw off whilst sitting in the chair in the garage and was bleeding profusely. I think he wouldn't have survived but I'm unsure of how it turned out.
I'll never forget her saying "Silly (insert name here) what have you done to yourself?" in a sweet, calm, caring old lady voice. It's very interesting as a dispatcher to be exposed to how people react when they are in shock.
Saved By The TreelineGiphy
When I was a Military Police officer we got a call about an accident. A 2 and 1/2 ton truck t-boned a Saturn at a T intersection. When we arrived we found the Saturn pancaked against a concrete barrier. The barrier was protecting against a 10-foot drop into a heavily forested area. We couldn't find the driver of the Saturn. As my partner and I were looking about we heard people yelling from under the concrete.
When we got down there we saw where the flashlights were pointed. About 6 feet off the ground there was a young woman tangled in tree branches about 20 feet away from the barrier. She was conscious but unable to speak.
The truck hit her car with such force that her body flew through the broken windshield close to the passenger door, out into the woods, and she was saved by the treeline.
She survived with multiple puncture wounds, a broken femur, broken collarbone, collapsed lung, rib injuries, and she lost one of her eyes.
Got a call from Life Alert one time saying that one of their clients was stuck in her kitchen because her wheelchair got stuck on a cupboard. She wasn't in duress just needed to get unstuck.
Wasn't an urgent call and it was a busy night so the road sergeant had to pull a unit off the call twice due to more urgent calls. After she pulled the second unit she said he would go and help the woman herself while the other calls were being handled.
When the sergeant arrived the caller's front door was open with just the screen door in place. That wasn't unusual since it was a nice day for a breeze. Sgt could see the caller from the screen door and tried to ask if there was a way to unlock the screen or if she would have to cut it to get in.
The caller was not responsive to our Sgt so she called on the radio that we should have FD en route and that she was going to have to cut the screen door to make entry.
When our Sgt made it in, she found that Life Alert had the circumstances totally wrong. We don't know if the caller downplayed the situation, or if the operator just got the details wrong. Caller was not stuck in a cupboard at all.
The caller was sitting in her chair at the sink and had been washing dishes. The caller appeared to have dropped a knife and cut into her ankle. She was unable to bend down to stop the bleeding and was on blood thinners. She did not make it.
My center took a call from a number like 5 times in an hour, always radio silence on the other end. On the 6th call we finally heard enough of a voice to know someone was there and got an address and enough to know it was serious.
Make entry to the house and find the caller. A man had picked up his soon to be ex-girlfriend to "talk." He then duct taped her mouth and zip tied her wrists and ankles and spent the next 14 hours beating her with a bat and broke her cheek bone.
It was an absolutely terrifying moment and what made it worse was on review of the tape we could hear her say help on one of the previous calls, but couldn't hear it on the initial call in.
Too Much What?
A call came in and the caller was hard to understand. The man says my friend is sick, he's chocking from to much of something. It sounded like he said too much penis, so we asked him to repeat himself. Again, it sounded like penis. We would have brushed it off as a prank, but he sounded really scared.
Turns out he was saying peanuts. His friend had a peanut allergy and was going into shock.
We got a call from a couple a few years back. They said they had eaten edibles and thought they were going to die and all that. It's not an uncommon call, actually. So obviously we all thought they were just anxious from the marijuana.
It turned out when we got to their apartment that the marijuana they had gotten was laced and we had to rush them to the emergency room because when we got there they were passed out.
Emergency Or Not?
Sometimes people call on 911 for non-threatening things and vice versa, so it doesn't surprise me when the first line is, "I don't know if this is an emergency or not...."
So while at work one of those comes in. "I don't know if this is an emergency.....but I just saw a man shoot out the back window of a car while it was driving off."
Um yeah, that would qualify, ma'am.
Then about four minutes later, I get the 911 call from the girlfriend of the shooting victim. She was driving her boyfriend to the hospital.
Got a call for debris in the road on the main highway heading into town. It was outside our town limits, but was passed on to us as it was pretty close and the Sheriff's department was going to take a while to get to it. We often took small calls like this as a courtesy to their dept.
Once the officer arrived, he discovered the "debris" was what was left of a motorcyclist in a hIt and run. The body was in pretty bad shape, most likely hit by a semi, and had been subsequently run over by other motorists not realizing what it was. It gets pretty dark out in the desert, and the body looked more like someone had dropped some old clothes off the back of their truck or something. There was no way to know it was a body if you weren't standing over it with a light.
We had to track down the lady who made the original call. As it turned out, she was in the local convenience store. We discovered one of his arms had flipped up and become lodged in the grill of her car as she ran over it.
Along with dealing with the original call, we had to call an ambulance as the lady panicked and went into shock when she saw the arm. Ended up being a long night. After the initial investigation phase, the whole thing was turned over to the Sheriff's dept., I never did hear if they caught the guy who hit him.
I had an older female call in saying her husband fell while in the basement. Pretty normal call. I was trying to get info before turning it over to Fire(EMS) dispatch.
Said she heard him fall with a loud bang. So I asked a few more questions because she was so lackadaisical about explaining. I asked her if she could see him, she said no as she was bedridden. So I typed it up as an unknown complaint, but with details of a possible fall and asked about any possible weapons before I turned her over to Fire.
I muted myself and stayed on the call listening to her explain what she had heard. Before she hung up I un-muted myself and asked Fire to stay on the line so I could talk to them. Told them it didn't feel right so I wrote up a run for us to go also (we have enough officers that we generally get there before Fire) So the police get there to find her husband had killed himself in the basement.
She was totally oblivious (or didn't want to admit what she heard to herself) as to what happened.
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/
Mad About The Ditch
My mom is a 911 Dispatcher.
One day she got this call about a woman who was lying in a ditch. The caller was the woman's neighbor (who didn't even bother to get out and check on her.) The caller said that she was staring up with a glare on her face like she was mad about falling into the ditch or something.
So my mom dispatches an officer and they find out that the woman was getting her mail and started to have a heart attack. Kinda sad that the neighbor didn't bother to get out to check on her, but whatever. People are selfish sometimes.
Not my story, but I took a wilderness first aid course with a former EMT who shared this story with us:
An elderly woman calls 911 to report that her husband has a "splitting headache". She didn't sound too stressed or afraid so the ambulance took its time getting their to check up on him, didn't turn the sirens on or anything. He (my instructor) knocks on the door and the woman answers.
He asks where her husband is and she leads him to the kitchen, where her husband doubled over onto the kitchen table with a chef's knife lodged in the base of his skull. Shocked, he asked the woman how this happened. She replied, "I did it, now can you get him out of here, I don't like the smell."
I don't know what happened after that but he did show us pictures of the crime scene.
A Fatal Assault
I'm not a dispatcher, but I work in crime intelligence. We monitor the radios, so we know what's going on.
Last night there was a call about a car accident. It wasn't portrayed as a big deal, possible small fender bender, but the dispatcher specified that there were multiple tickets out for it. Scout says they're on the way. Less than two minutes later, dispatcher comes back saying they're getting calls about an assault and battery at that same intersection. This very quickly turned into a fatal assault.
Not me, but my cousin is a paramedic in a Small town in Texas.
They had received many calls from a family with a diabetic teen daughter over the years. Usually every instance was not an emergency. These calls from the parents started coming in more often and typically the symptoms were mild to moderate, certainly not life threatening. They always advised the parents how to manage her condition so these calls wouldn't have to happen. The parents didn't seem to get it.
Late one night the parents called complaining that their daughter appeared sick. My cousin and the paramedics thought it was a typical non-emergency case and didn't rush to the scene. The station was 20 minutes away. My cousin couldn't have known the seriousness at the time, the parents just said their daughter was "sick looking". When they arrived she was dead from diabetic shock. My cousin thinks she died minutes before they arrived and years later still regrets not rushing to the scene.
I was the caller. Three weeks from Christmas. Pearson airport in Toronto has deer living in the woods on the edge of the property near HWY 401, arguably the busiest highway in North America.
Well, the fence was down and there was a deer on the edge of the 401 so I called to report a doe on the road. The operator said "A Doe?" I said, lord forgive me but I couldn't help myself, "Yes, a doe, a deer, a feee-male deer." She laughed, I laughed.
Then a truck swerved so as not to hit the deer and took out 2 lanes of traffic. We stopped laughing.
The Fake Officer
My uncle was a cop and I was with him by his car when he got this call. A woman said her daughter was going to be arrested and wanted to know what she did wrong. They were puzzled and thought it was a prank call. The woman said her daughter called her because she was pulled over at the garbage dump and police were searching her because they spotted a couple of empty beer boxes in the back of the truck she was driving.
The officer wasn't listening to her when she said she was taking them to the dump. The police she initially called brushed it off and said it was probably a made-up story because none of their officers were on that road.
My uncle was out on patrol and thought it was strange, so when he saw another officer he radioed and asked if there was anyone at the dump. The officer said no, not that he knew of. That was enough for my uncle's curiosity to get the better of him. He responded to check out the scene and found a girl pulled over.
The man who pulled her over was a fake cop. He probably stopped an assault - or maybe worse - by going to check.
A Giant Man
Not my story, but my cousins. He is a 911 operator and got a call from a young women went really sideways.
When he first answered the call, the person was mumbling and whispering. He asked her to repeat herself saying he couldn't understand. The girl again was mumbling and whispering, but something sounded off.
Cousin asked what the address was and the girl was able to give that somewhat clearly. Now that he had an address, he asked again what the problem was. This time he could understand her.
"There's a giant man in my house." - and then she screams bloody murder
Apparently, the young girl was home alone and the girls parents were at work. A man saw the house and since there was no cars there he thought no one was home. He broke in through the window, and as he was breaking in she hid under her bed and called the cops.
Unfortunately, she went under her bed in a bad position. She wasn't facing the door, which meant she couldn't see him walk in and her foot was sticking out. He grabbed her legs and pulled her out and stabbed her. My cousin heard the attack.
She survived, thankfully.
I work at an urgent care, and a lady called and casually said her son was struck by lightning. He seemed fine, but his primary doctor wanted her to take him to the emergency room for an EKG and to check out his cardiac enzymes. I told her to follow her doctors orders and go to the emergency room. She seemed super annoyed and she said, "Well can't you do an EKG???"
Woman, your son was struck by lightning. He needs to be monitored, as these symptoms can show up later. His heart rhythm is probably screwed!
I thought the caller was just a crazy lady - it was a full moon night and very common to have mentally ill people call about weird things. She called and started talking about how her son was 'leaking' in her living room and there was something strange knocking around her house. Very odd.
After I did some searching in the system I found out her son was murdered a week earlier and his body had been lying in her living room. He had not been embalmed and was leaking black fluid on the floor. The undertaker was knocking at the door trying to be let in to fix the problem, but the woman couldn't tell where the knocking was coming from.