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November 06, 2008


I am a 911 dispatcher.  As a public service, I am going to teach you how not to call 911.

First, when they answer "911, where is your emergency?", don't say "At my house" or "on First street".  Granted, you think we are dumb, but this is a little too vague.  Also, it is important to know your own address.  If you call on your house phone, yes we can find you.  But in the age of cell phones, if you use your cell, we only know what area you are in.  So two important tips come in here.  First, not every cell phone will accurately gage the area you are really in.  Most of them only will ping the nearest cell tower.  If your phone is a phase two, it can narrow it down to a street.  Therefore, screaming at us and yelling "can't you see where I'm at by my cell phone?" will not help the situation.  Until the Jetsons take over and we have 360 degree video feeds from cell phones, no I cannot see where you are.  Also, don't scream "send help!" and set the phone down.  We can't send every officer, fire truck, and ambulance to your vicinity to try and find you.  This brings me back to knowing your own address.  Nothing is more frustrating than getting a call from someone who does not know their address.  Last time I checked, this is important information.  It ranks right up there with your name.  And please don't say you live right behind the McDonald's.  There are more than one in most parts of the country.

Now, I realize people are upset when they call 911, but use your head.  If you tell us that you just caught an 11-year old ringing your doorbell and there is a hurricane knocking on our door we might be a little unsympathetic.  If you caught him lighting dog shit on your front porch, I might be a little worried.  But as mad as you are, chances are he is not there to kill you.  Afterall, he did ring the doorbell.  Regardless, there is information we have to obtain from every caller.  Try not to scream at the 11-year old while making the emergency call to 911 even though you could have used the non-emergency number in this situation.  And when I ask you questions, don't scream at me to get an officer there immediately.  Number one, our officers do not sit around the corner from you.  Number two, excuse me if your call is a little lower in priority than the shooting that occurred in the middle of the hurricane that is bearing down on us.  Also, when I keep trying to get the information I need from you, do NOT ask me what part of sending an officer right now do I not understand.  What part of "you are stupid for making this call and wigging out on an 11-year old for ringing your doorbell" do you not understand?  Now, when the officer gets there and you curse her out for her slow response and she tells you not to use 911 for that again, don't keep calling back on 911.  A supervisor is not going to see your situation any different, and it will earn you a trip to jail.  Granted, you are now safe from the hurricane.

Another tip: don't keep telling us to hurry.  If your call is a priority call, we are hurrying.  Repeating it over and over doesn't make the police teleport to your house.  Also, let's talk more about using your head.  You just saw a car streak past you going 50 in a 35 mph zone.  Don't run in the house and call 911.  Chances are good that they will not keep going past your house to give you time to call us and the officers time to catch them.  If you choose to call this in, and can not tell us what make/model the vehicle was or a license plate number, seriously, what do you want us to do?  Pull over every blue truck in a 5 mile radius and ask them if they just sped down main street?  Don't you watch speeders?  They aren't going to admit to it.  Besides, an officer can't give them a ticket just because you say so.  Also, there is road rage and/or being drunk vs. not getting your way on the road.  Please don't snatch up the phone and dial 911 because you just got cut off in traffic.  If you are trying to enter the freeway and a truck towing a boat didn't let you in to the lane, that is not roadrage.  He is not trying to scare you on purpose, and he does have the right of way.  Granted you are pissed, but if you think they really are drunk, watch them for a minute.  I can't tell you how many people call because they are pissed, we run circles to get an officer behind them only to not be able to pull them over because they are actually driving fine.  DO NOT MISUNDERSTAND...IF YOU HONESTLY BELIEVE YOU ARE BEHIND A DRUNK DRIVER, BY ALL MEANS CALL 911.