It happened again last night.  Someone called for help.  The only problem was, they didn’t call 9-1-1!  They called family.  In another state.  Halfway across the country!  THAT person called 9-1-1.  The trouble with that?  9-1-1 here isn’t the same 9-1-1 there.  (It’s not one big room of dispatchers.  I can’t stand up and yell “Yo! Boston! Line 3!”) Precious time is ticking away, and the person who needs help is endangering themselves by calling the wrong place.  The first person you think of when you need help can’t do much from 2,000 miles away!

If you find yourself needing emergency help, call 9-1-1 FIRST! Calling home and telling THEM to call 9-1-1 is endangering your life.  It amazes me how many people do that, however.  We get several calls a week from someone who tells us they were called and asked to call 9-1-1 for some friend or relative!  Usually the person who ends up talking to 9-1-1 doesn’t really know what’s wrong, or where the person who needs help is located.  That really slows down response times, and can end up being the deciding factor in whether someone lives or dies.

Last night’s story started in a rural area of Texas, just south of Fort Worth.  A man in his mid-50’s, with a history of mild strokes, calls his wife in Porterville, and tells her he’s in the shed out back, and he thinks he’s having a stroke.  He tells her to call 9-1-1, then drops the phone and the line is cut off.  The wife immediately dials 9-1-1, and asks for an ambulance to be sent out.  She, of course, is upset, worried, and scared, and is not listening closely to what the operator (me) is saying, and therefore slowing down the entire process.  Once the operator (me) got her calmed down a bit, the story came out, and we were able to make some progress.  Wife had the address and location of the man, so I at least had a place to start.  You might be amazed (unless you’re a dispatcher) at how many times people call for help, and have no idea where they are, or where the person they’re calling for is!  We can’t help you if we don’t know where you are.

This happened on a busy Friday night, with every dispatcher either on a radio channel or a phone.  I was able to track down the phone number of the police department of the town where he was, and called them to dispatch units.  They took the call and I called wife back to tell her that help was on the way.  The only downside to this for me, was that I never found out how it turned out.  That’s an occupational hazard, as we often only hear the beginning, and are left hanging about the end.  But as we often say at work, “I love my job!”

Remember – call 9-1-1 FIRST!