911 dispatchers have a tough job, but don’t forget: it’s not all emergencies. They also answer phone calls in non-emergency lines. These can run the gamut from requesting a wellness check to reporting a funky smell or a sparking wire. Really anything else that requires assistance but isn’t life-threatening.
But of course, some people misconstrue the meaning of the word “emergency.” In a Reddit thread, dispatchers revealed times when they received real emergencies in the non-emergency line.
10. No Breathing
FYI: not breathing is always an emergency.
“Last night someone called our non-emergency line because one of their family members wasn’t breathing at all. Got a little blind-sided by that one.”—AnonUser626
9. Chest Pain
It wasn’t a cardiac arrest, that’s for sure.
“One of my instructors in AIT told us a story about how they were responding to a call where the patient was complaining about chest pain. For obvious reasons, he and the other EMTs were preparing for some sort of cardiac issue. They get to the scene just to find out that the patient’s chest pain was due to the gunshot wound in his chest.
This technically doesn’t fit your criteria, since chest pain is also an emergency, but I figured it fit well enough.”—The_Timminator
8. The Freezing Lady
We need an update, stat!
“I work in emergency road service. I got a call for a lockout where a disabled woman was locked inside her car because of electrical issues. Because she had some kind of electronic assistance for getting in/out of the car, and the car was dead, she was stuck. It was snowing to beat the band and non-emergency response times were 4 hours. It was 20 degrees out. I told her to call 911 and she absolutely refused to do it.”—Swordofmytriumph
7. When a dog is actually a coyote…
This one was a smart call!
“Not a dispatcher, but I called about a lost dog near the beach one summer. The dispatcher asked if it had a collar, what breed it was, etc, and we eventually realized it was a coyote. For bonus points, when animal control and the cops showed up they told me it had rabies. Thankfully it was early enough nobody was at the beach yet.”—LaulenLush
6. Sometimes 911 is the best bet.
Err on the side of caution, folks.
“Not a dispatcher but a Paramedic. We got a call for a fall and the patient only needed help up. Per dispatch notes, reporting party said patient was breathing, conscious, and was at her normal mental status. We didn’t run lights and sirens due to no apparent life threats and the relatively short distance, under 2 miles with light traffic. Get inside, patient is having a full blown stroke, she is unresponsive, and was struggling to breathe. The wall right next to her head had a hole that busted through the dry wall. Patient ended up having a hemorrhagic stroke and it was believed to have happened when she hit the wall. We took her home on hospice a few days later. Still annoys me to this day about the whole situation but you live and you learn. However, there is not much we or the hospital could have done. Family honored her wishes and asked for comfort measures.”—OBSMedic
5. The One with Multiple Stories
Some real doozies!
“‘I don’t want to be a bother but I’ve been on the floor for 4 days and I haven’t had anything to eat or drink and nobody has a key but me. I just need a bit of help off the floor’ he’d managed to crawl to the phone and kick the table till it fell on the floor. He was so dehydrated he spent a week in intensive care. I work for the fire service so we get a lot of ‘not an emergency’ emergencies. I had an old lady call once and very calmly said ‘I have a small fire in my kitchen’ we sent a couple of fire engines and… Building fully involved in fire… In the time between taking the call and arriving the fire shouldn’t have taken the whole building. They reckon from CCTV that her call was made when the whole house was already alight, she was just super chill about the whole thing.
Also had a very calm caller to a fire outside near a village and when we got there it was a fully involved recycling centre on fire… Building was massive and full of the sort of thing you don’t want to be on fire.
It happens surprisingly often… Especially from other emergency services! Police will pass a minor RTC and we will turn up and it’s 3 lorrys, 2 cars, a fatality, air ambulance required the works. Honestly it never ceases to amaze me.”—thewrathofsloth17
4. This was a major emergency.
Any fire is urgent. Any fire at all.
“Not me, but someone I know. We have this thing called Ärztefunkdienst which is a non emergency hotline where you can call on weekends and workdays from 7pm-7am if you are sick and want a visit from a general practitioner. (It’s to keep tge ambulances away from too many non emergency calls) Usually people wait around 30min to 4h depending on workload. One day a retirement home nurse (not sure if an actual nurse or someone else) calls and tells our dispatcher someone coded and they are providing cpr. The dispatcher guided them while also connecting to the main ambulance service. Just before he could connect them they also told him their building is on fire… In the end the one guy coding was declared dead but no one else was hurt. Never heard what exactly happened or if the fire and cpr was related.”—chicken_and_bananas
3. Here’s an important tip.
Straight from the primary source.
“I’m a firefighter, and numerous times people will just call to the station to report an emergency. We still have to tell them to call 911 because we’re not allowed to ‘self-dispatch’.”—bigbadff
2. At least it worked?
But next time call 911.
“Once a man tried to climb in my bedroom window. At the time I had a really old shitty bed that was always coming apart, so I pulled the leg off and scared him away with it.
Then I called the non-emergency number because he was already gone. There was a helicopter overhead and the cop cars at my door in less than a minute and the dispatcher was like, next time you can just call 911…”—JamesandtheGiantAss
1. She needed someone to “collect the body.”
“I’ve taken many legit emergencies on the non-emergency line. Most memorable was a lady who shot her husband and just called us to “collect the body.”
What always shocked me was when it was busy and I would ask, “is this an emergency or can you hold?” People would always say they could hold but then have legit emergencies. Like, no your stab wound cannot hold.
I often found that in shock people tend to get hyper focused on one detail and leave out vital ones.”—allaboutthatpuc
Moral of the story – err on the side of caution. If anyone is in any danger at all, call 911.