911, Where’s Your Emergency?

“911 Where’s your emergency?” has been said by myself and many other emergency dispatchers over the years. I’ve found that it means something different to everyone that says it, especially the first time they say it. This is the story of my very first 911 call and what 8 years as a 911 dispatcher has taught me.

On my first day that phrase brought a surge of adrenaline akin to my first roller coaster ride. My heart started beating in my chest like I’ve already run a 100 yard dash with a swarm of bees chasing me down and my mouth goes as dry as the Sahara Desert. I’m prepared for whatever is coming, this is my first ever 911 call I’ve taken on my own. I’m not going to screw up whatever life and death emergency the desperate soul on the other side of the phone is urgently seeking help for.

I say those magic words for the first time, “911 Where’s your emergency?”

The adrenaline reaches a crescendo, the desperate soul speaks.

“Well, this isn’t really an emergency..”

Let down, but you never know what is coming, “What can I help you with?”

“Well, there are three deer in my yard and they’ve been out there for a while, I’d just like them to go away.”

“I’m sorry but they are wild animals, they’ll move along on their own eventually. We don’t have anyone that will come out to escort them out of your yard.”

Sounding concerned, “I’d just like them out of my yard, I know that deer-gun season started today and I don’t want no one shooting them in my yard.”

I try to be the voice of reason.

“Well ma’am, seeing as you live in the city limits and it is illegal to hunt inside the city limits they should be safe from being shot in your yard”

I thought that was the end of our conversation and satisfaction would have been delivered, oh how I was wrong. In a completely deadpan serious voice comes her next query.

“Oh! Well do you think the deer know that and that’s why they’re hiding in the city?”

I didn’t know how to respond. My trainer who has been listening in on this whole exchange has presently lost it and is doing his best to contain his amusement.

I blurt out,”That must be it ma’am, hope you have a wonderful day.”

Line disconnects.

No emergency, no fanfare, no life and death struggle. Just some sleepy deer.

This is a more common call than an actual emergency. I’ve been doing this for 8 years now, which seems like a lifetime in itself. There have been some actual emergencies. I’ve help deliver babies, instruct CPR, stem serious bleeding injuries, and done a lot of good. I’ve been on the phone with parents as they realize their child has just died, motorists who come to the realization they’ve just killed a kid that darted in front of them on a bike, and shared a loving daughter and her father’s last moments together as he went into heart failure after calling 911 for nausea and stomach pain.

There is good and bad, heartache and triumph, victory and defeat. You carry it with you, you never forget. There are a lot of dumb calls, but the important ones, they stick with you. Not many people last long in this industry, but those who do, they carry it with them. I know I do.

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