Sometimes the universe conspires to bring together a multiplicity of situations, each of which would be a minor problem on it’s own, but when combined create potential for deadly mayhem. Last night I experienced that perfect storm, and it could end badly. Here’s a list of the things that could go wrong, and did: He didn’t call on a 9-1-1 line, and he didn’t speak English. Once a translator was on the line, he didn’t mention the single most important fact of the situation, or the translator failed to properly understand the emergency. He started off asking to speak to a particular officer, but mangled the name so badly that I had no clue who he was referring to, and wasted precious time trying to figure out who he might have meant. After much too much time was wasted on what would turn out to be unimportant details, he got around to explaining the problem. I about fell out of my chair once I understood what he was trying to convey. I was yelling for an ambulance to start, getting deputies responding code 3, and basically cursing him and the translator (to myself, never out loud) for beating around the bush when speed was of the essence.
I don’t know if this caller was simply unable to comprehend what he was doing wrong and suffered from a general lack of understanding of the gravity of the situation, or if he was simply in shock, and unable to take quick and decisive action. I don’t know if the translation service employee understood what was actually being said, because saying “leg” several times imparts a much different meaning to a situation than the correct word, a very different body part.
All of this may end up making no difference. The outcome could have been decided before I ever picked up the phone. What I do know is that Murphy called my dispatch center last night, didn’t use 9-1-1, and took his own sweet time to describe an emergency situation. I don’t yet know if it will turn out to be a deadly one.