The Good, The Bad, and The Funny of 911 Dispatch
Lately I have been talking about the good and the bad of 911 dispatch. Today I would like to talk about the funny stuff that happens. This is the stuff that no one hears about unless you're a co-worker or a friend who has heard or read our stories. I know I have written about a few already but here are some more to tickle your funny bone. When you think of 911 dispatch you think about emergency calls, police, ems, and the fire department. The majority of the calls we get on 911 are non-emergency. Most of the people who call on 911 with a non-emergency call will ask for the non-emergency number but we take their call on 911 either way. They are going to get us anyway so we take it. Those are the nice people. We also get calls from people who start yelling and swearing at us because they're upset with their neighbors dog running in their yard and tell us to just get someone out there before they shoot it. These people are not nice and are ones that we talk to almost every other day. The frequent callers are also the ones that make my job interesting and funny. I remember dealing with a couple who were always calling about their arguments. Every time the officers went out there they would end up clearing the address without anything being resolved. Now, it wasn't because the officers didn't do their jobs, it was because the couple kept saying that they were fine and didn't need our help. Well, one day I took a call from them and I was speaking to the soon to be ex-husband who I will call Jake. The poor guy was upset because his wife, who I will call Emily, was fed up and ready to move out. Before I move on I want to make sure you understand that I'm not trying to be a jerk here. No domestic situation is ever funny but sometimes the information is misunderstood and you just have to go with the flow and laugh it off. I could hear Emily yelling in the background saying that all Jake cared about was their little girl. I figured she was talking about their daughter but I was wrong.
"Sir, are you ok?"
"Where is Emily at?"
"She's at the house and I'm at the end of the driveway with our little girl waiting for the officer."
"Ok, so whose all involved? It's you, Emily, and..."
"Our little girl. She's so upset."
"Yeah? How old is she?"
"She's almost 5 years old sir."
"Yeah! You just wait until the officers get here! I'm outta here", Emily yelled in the distance.
I started to hear a yelp or crying of some sort.
"Sir is that your daughter crying?"
"Yeah...you said you were with your little girl."
"Oh...no she's not my daughter. She's my dog."
EGG ON MY FACE! The whole time I thought this was the guys daughter and it was actually his dog. I could hear it yelping more and more and Jake began to sniffle as well. What else could I do or say?
"Sir are you ok?"
"Yes, but my little girl is upset and I'm getting upset as well."
I took a deep breath and went for it.
"Well sir, the officers will be there soon. Just hold her and comfort her. Let her know it will be okay."
"It's ok honey. Everything will be alright."
I couldn't believe it worked. At first I wanted to hold up the phone so that I could chuckle. I mean, why would I tell the guy to comfort his dog? It seemed hilarious but it actually worked and Jake, as well as his dog, were able to calm down. Calls like this one can go either way. You can say something that will ultimately help or you can say something that will make you feel like a jerk. For example, I have taken calls where I...well, let me put it in dialog form. It will work better that way.
"Can you hear me? Hello, are you there?"
"Yes, I can hear you now. I think someone is trying to break into my house and my dad is at work."
"Ok, where is your mom at?"
"Um...she died a few years ago."
D'oh! This is the kind of conversation that sucks because you're thrown off your game and you think for a moment that you just jacked up your call.
"I'm really sorry."
"Oh it's fine. You didn't know she was dead. I do miss her though."
So now the caller is thinking about her deceased mother instead of the person who is breaking into the house. Another example comes from a call that I posted where I thought I was speaking to a Carl and it turned out to be a Carol. Calls like this are very funny but it's only afterward that you're able to laugh. At the moment of FAIL there is no time to laugh. One can only apologize for the mistake and hope for the best. There are also calls where we speak to the disturbed. These are the calls that take good speaking skills and customer service. When you take a call from someone who hates you for no reason you have to take it like a professional. Let's look at some dialog.
"911 where's your emergency?"
"Hello? What's your address?"
"You don't need my address! You just need to listen!"
"Ok sir, take a deep breath."
"I will take nothing! You need to copy down this number and call it! It's a matter of national security man!"
I didn't know what to think at first. The guy was calling from a pre-paid phone and had no GPS coordinates so there was no way for me to locate him.
"Yes sir, go ahead."
He gave me the number and I could hear him huffing and puffing.
"Now! You need to call this number and tell them they are trying to hurt the President!"
"Sir, what number is this?"
"It's to the Whitehouse man! You need to call them!" *click*
The guy hung up on me and I chuckled a little. He called a few more times and yelled at me like you wouldn't believe. What else could I do but laugh after each call. Think of Sam Kinison yelling at you over and over for no reason and saying things that would make the devil blush. That was my night and when I finally got the chance I called the number.
"Whitehouse switchboard how may I direct your call?"
I was speechless...
"Hi...umm...I wasn't expecting anyone to answer the line."
"Well my name is Ricardo with 911 dispatch and there was a guy calling about..."
Before I could go any further the operator said the guys name.
"Yeah that's him."
"Oh yeah, we've taken several calls from that guy. He's harmless."
We shared a chuckle and hung up. I couldn't believe that the guy actually called the Whitehouse with the stuff he was telling me. I got a few more calls from him over time but in the end he was able to get the help he needed. It's the calls like the ones I have mentioned that make my job so interesting. I have dealt with every type of call you can think of. It takes thick skin, good customer service, and common sense to do what I do but the most important thing you need is a good sense of humor.