It should be no secret that the people on the other end of the 9-1-1 line have super stressful jobs. They’re talking to human beings in their most desperate moments (and also some stupid and hilarious moments, of course), so of course they have some pretty good stories.
Like the 17 below, categorized by people on the job as totally “unforgettable.”
#17. Miscommunication can be horrifying.
Had some one call saying a man had been killed by a goat. Turns out goat is what they also call the machine that picks oranges off of trees. Miscommunication can be horrifying.
#16. It was slugs.
I’ll go with a lighter one. I once had an elderly woman complain that gang members tagged her shed. She also said she didn’t want a black deputy (this is the south). The (black) deputy arrived and found that it wasnt spray paint, but that her shed was so dirty that slugs had eaten paths in the filth that created patterns.
#15. She’d been laying down in the back seat without her seatbelt on.
This one still bothers me because it’s so fresh and our community is hurting from it as well. Took a call from a hysterical woman advising me of a rollover crash that happened near her house. She lives near the top of a blind hill that people like to “jump” (like catching that butterfly feeling in your stomach, although you can get air in the right vehicle). She tells me that a girl is laying on the ground about 30 feet or so from the vehicle. When asked if the girl is alive, she says, “Oh yes, honey she’s wiggling around on the ground. My daughter is a nurse, she’s checking on her now.” Awesome. We hardly ever are lucky enough to have a trained professional on scene before a med unit can get there. But then she tells me her daughter is starting CPR. To be honest, that didn’t surprise me. My caller was getting hysterical again and we already had first responders on the way, so I started asking more questions about the scene. Her daughter breaks CPR to get on the phone with me. Tells me she can do compressions only, that the girl’s jaw is completely gone. A bit stunned, I tell her to continue compressions. But rather than getting put back on with the original caller, I hear the scared voice of a teenage girl, the driver. “Is my friend going to be okay?” I can’t find anything to say for a moment. Finally, after what seemed to be too long, I say “They’re doing CPR, dear. And we have help on the way. Are you and the other passenger okay?” “We’re fine. Just please tell me she’s okay.” The girl on the ground was confirmed D.O.A. She had been laying down in the back seat without her seat belt on because she had a headache. She was 15.
#14. The type of scream…
Answered to the sounds of a couple of women absolutely screaming and wailing (I’m sure anyone that has done the job long enough knows the type of scream I mean – that blood curdling scream of someone in genuine anguish). Knew something was up and got police and ambulance on the way. Trying to get them on the phone to get details and a boy of no more than five years old comes on the phone and says “my daddy is swinging from the roof and his eyes are open and staring”.
He had hung himself while his family were out doing their shopping.
#13. Biggest WTF.
Well, my buddy is a fireman and dispatch had just alerted them of a man having chest pains. They get to the guys house, and as soon as they open the door, the dudes dog runs outside. The dude shouts “you let my dog out! go get my dog! Please!” So my buddy immediately starts chasing the dog.
He catches the dog, comes back to the house, and when he walks in the door he sees that the man having “chest pains” had actually shot a HOLE IN HIS CHEST while cleaning his gun.
Old dude shoots himself in the chest, tells 911 it’s chest pains, and when help arrives, he makes them go chase his dog down before tending to his own life threatening wound. Biggest WTF of my buddies career
#12. Pretty messed up.
This actually happened a few days ago. I’m an ER tech, but one of our unit secretaries (someone who transfers calls and does other important tasks that keeps the place afloat) is an EMT in the next county over. I was waiting for a patient to return to their room, talking with her, when she looks down at her phone. She tells me she has the dispatch app or whatever for ambulances and fire trucks, and every firehall in the county had just received a call about a possible decomposing body. Apparently the neighbor called about a terrible smell coming from the property. Hazmat was called and everything, expecting a dead human body.
Once they broke into the house, they found that it wasn’t a dead human, but 38 dogs in the house. 11 of the dogs were dead and in “varying states of decomposition”. The place is still pretty much under wraps, but 16 more dogs were found in the shed yesterday. The two people who owned the house have since been arrested and charged with 51 counts of animal cruelty. All of the animals left alive were taken to the humane society, where half of the county has just about donated food or blankets.
The whole thing is pretty messed up, but I now for sure respect the hell out of the EMTs and paramedics that walk through our doors everyday. They really never know what they’re going to see when they walk into a place.
Here’s the most recent article: https://www.carrollcountytimes.com/news/local/cc-dogs-cruelty-040919-story,amp.html
#11. It really messed with my head.
I’ve been a 911 dispatcher for 11 years in a medium size center (population ~180,000). We have more than our share of crazy calls but there are only a few calls that have stuck with me. For me the ones that I can’t get rid of aren’t even close to being the craziest or most brutal.
7-8 years ago I took a 911 call from a man who came home to find his adult sister had been raped and beaten. The suspect had wrapped a telephone cord around her neck then tried to push her through the window of the apartment. He was understandably very distraught. She was still alive and was able to talk to me. She had not been blindfolded and I was certain I could get a description of the person who had done this to her. She answered all of my other questions but absolutely refused to give me any info on the suspect. I later found out that the reason was self-preservation, the person who did it was the brother who called 911 for help. He was so believable it really messed with my head. I also felt horrible that I had continued pressing her for info with the person who hurt her was right there and that I could have potentially put her in more danger without realizing.
#10. He couldn’t let it go.
Not me, but my sister is a dispatcher. One time she received a call from a man who said he just killed his sister and brother. She kept him on the phone for 5 or 6 minutes to make sure he didn’t run before officers arrived. She got him to admit they had all been drinking and playing cards, then got into an argument when one of them accused the other of cheating. The other two went to bed, but this guy stayed up stewing. Apparently he couldn’t let it go. He shot each of them in their beds while they slept, then called 911. I heard a partial recording of the call and she sounded calm AF. She told me she was screaming on the inside the entire time.
#9. Got you now, you little sh*t.
I have a few.
I took a call from a man who’s ~1 year old daughter fell in the pool while unattended. At the time of the call she was not breathing, unresponsive, and had no pulse. My partner dispatched out fire and EMS while I was on the phone. Got the child’s mother to start CPR. Fortunately she was certified and didn’t require very much instruction at all, just had to tell her to count her compressions out loud so I could keep up. Before first responders arrived, the baby starts breathing again. I believe she sustained some brain injury but nothing life threatening. Had to go take a walk around the block after that one. Please please please, if you aren’t CPR certified, get certified. It very well may have been the difference between that child living and dying.
On a lighter note, I also had a guy call in claiming he was having a heart attack. None of the info I got from this guy indicated he was even remotely at risk for one. Mid 20s male, average weight, no history of heart problems (or any other medical history for that matter). Turns out he had smoked some particularly strong pot about 30 minutes prior to calling. Absolutely nothing wrong with him other than he was stoned stupid. We got a pretty good laugh out of that one.
I also took a call from a kid who was about 10 years old who thought it would be funny to prank call 911. He started off by saying there was a fire. I could hear him giggling in the background. Followed that up with meowing at me over the phone. Managed to get a good location off the call and got his address. Read the address to him and asked if that’s where he lives. CLICK. Alright, got you now, you little shit. Had a deputy go out to the house as is our policy and he explained the situation to the parents. Deputy told me later the kid got the ass chewing of a lifetime. Super gratifying.
#8. We still had to check for spiders.
“A woman complaining of spiders in her vagina”
In college, I worked as an EMT in a major city. Not the craziest call I ever had but one of the wackiest call outs we ever got was to respond to “a woman complaining of spiders in her vagina”. I’ll never forget pulling up to this major intersection where, sure enough, there’s this old lady lying on the sidewalk with her pants off and legs spread up in the air. Turns out it was this transient lady in her 70s who had been having some wild hallucinations.
We still had to check for spiders 🙁
#7. It was a wild time.
A woman masturbating on the phone.
The first time she called she sounded normal at first. Asked for an officer that never worked here. General conversation about this officer while she progressively got more.. extreme with her moaning. I eventually (and gracefully) ended the conversation. It was a wild time. I still remember her name and voice.
The second and third times she called I asked if it was her and she hung up right away.
Why are you like this Ms. Roberts? What is your end game?
Edit: For clarification, we traced the number down to a woman in Florida. We’re located in Missouri and our agency is tiny (part of why I like this job). Hunting her down and bringing her to justice probably would have gotten her offwouldn’t have been worth the hassle.
#6. It will stick with me forever.
Student Paramedic here. Had a call being general broadcasted over radio when I was chilling in base with my mentor (we were on a 2 man car ambulance) operator who was broadcasting said something along the lines of: “female, reportedly unconscious, police on scene, major trauma (pause)… CPR in progress confirmed arrest by police on scene.”
my mentor looks at me, we’re off in 30 mins at the end of a night shift but we go anyway. We’re around the corner. Make it there in no time at all. There’s police EVERYWHERE. at least 7 squad cars. I’m nervous as hell and so is my mentor. As we approach the house, a man emerges, handcuffed by police. He looks content enough and smiles at us as we walk by. Police shout for us to hurry, we run over with equipment to front door and are met with one of the worst scenes I’ve ever seen and will always be there in my mind.
There’s a woman lying on the ground, with the left side of her head caved in, blood absolutely all over the place and brain matter scattered around the floor too. Police are doing CPR, we stop them when we see the Patient has signs of pooling and rigor mortis. I’m literally sweating and on the verge of tears, this is not how I wanted my shift to end. Then, we hear from behind us more police in the house and the sounds of children. 2 kids are escorted out of a bedroom behind us with their eyes covered and one of them asks:”what’s going on Where’s Mommy?”. My heart melted. I’ve never been exactly traumatised by a job but those kids being shielded from what just happened to their mother will stick with me forever.
I bring equipment back to the ambulance as my mentor starts to do paperwork and we wait for someone to move the body. Social services arrive and take the kids, blissfully unaware of what’s just happened. Was off 3 hours late after all the paperwork and interviewing from police. Good job, but man has it lefts it’s mark on me.
#5. Profoundly sad.
Older lady, I want to say maybe early 70s, calls in with a sort of polite urgency in her voice, tells me she thinks she’s having a stroke. Tells me she has her grandchild at the house with her, asks me to call her daughter to come get the child.
By the time she’s done giving me the phone number there’s just a very slight slur in her speech. By the time EMS got there (probably no more than 5 minutes or so) I couldn’t understand a thing she was saying. Fascinating, disturbing, and profoundly sad hearing someone stroke out on the phone as they’re talking to you.
#4. Not something I’ll ever forget.
For me, the worst ones are always the calls you can relate to on a personal level. I took a call last month from a father who discovered his son with a bag over his head and a note next to his body. I’ve taken a ton of suicide calls, but this one was particularly difficult for me because the son was my age, and the way the father pleaded with his son was almost exactly the same way I’ve imagined my dad if I were to ever do the same. I’ve had the same “Come on, buddy! Don’t do this to me!” running in my head at least 2-3 times a day since.
Also, not technically a call but my first shift on my own, I dispatched the deputy I did my ride along with to a domestic that he ended up being shot and killed at. Hearing his blood-gurgled “shots fired” scream on the radio won’t be something I’ll ever forget.
#3. She was laughing so hard she could barely give me her safety password.
I was a dispatcher for a residential alarm company similar to ADT. I would call people when their alarm was tripped and ask them if they were okay.
One day I received a signal from a residence from a glass break sensor on a window in the bathroom.
When i called the lady was laughing so hard she could barely give me her safety password.
Turns out she was cleaning her bathroom and when she bent over she farted so hard and loud it set off the sensor on the bathroom window.
#2. Not even a little bit.
Not 911, but tele-nursing, people called me plenty when it should have been 911.
Grandma, calls me about her 16 year old, 40 week pregnant, grand daughter.
GM: Hey my grandbaby is pregnant and she just went to pee and said the cord is hanging out….is that normal?
Me: No…..not even a little bit
#1. Kindness and compassion in his last moments.
A young man 23 years old called and told me he was going to commit suicide. He was my first call of my shift that day, very early in the morning. He planned to set his car on fire with himself inside. He was upset and crying but he apologized to me. He said he was sorry I picked up the phone and he was sorry for how this was going to affect me. He hung up on me and the second time I was speaking to him I could hear liquid splashing in the background. He ended hanging up again and I never got him back. He did end up setting the on fire and it was fully engulfed by the time anyone got there. I’ll never forget his name or voice and I simply hope I showed him kindness and compassion in his last moments.
Edit: Thank you for the gold and silver kind strangers! I appreciate all the comments. I’m fine. Im lucky enough to have an amazing support system in my co-workers and I have an awesome spouse to keep me grounded. This call made me a better dispatcher. It’s easy to become desensitized to the horrific things we hear and this young man renewed my passion for helping people.
I couldn’t do it. Glad others can!