Millions of people visit the social networking site Reddit on a daily basis, and many times, individuals will host AMAs or Ask Me Anything sessions, allowing people to ask questions to people about their occupation, hobby, or personal life. Over the past few years, a number of 911 dispatchers have hosted AMAs and answered questions for curious users about the life of a 911 dispatcher. Dispatchers that have hosted AMAs have confirmed their occupations with pictures of their emergency dispatch badges or certificates.
One of the most common questions is about non-emergency calls to 911. The dispatchers describe getting calls ranging from children dialing the emergency number to accidental dials (aka butt-dials). They listen to people signing or casual conversations about anything you can think of. In one instance, a dispatcher heard a drug deal go down in the background.
In any case, when 911 is accidentally dialed, it is encouraged not to hang up immediately, but to stay on the line and explain that it was accidental. Many 911 dispatchers have to call numbers back if the call is ended immediately. In the case of repeated calling of 911 without an emergency, individuals can be fined for abusing emergency services.
Many users also asked about a situation where someone needs help, but they cannot speak. The dispatchers noted that in those cases, the line should be left open as long as possible. Emergency technologies have advanced to the point that a call’s location can be pinpointed within a reasonable distance, but only if the line stays open. Additionally, the caller should do their best to whisper important information such as the type of emergency and an address into the phone. The dispatcher can also amplify the volume of the call to hear quiet sounds.
The dispatchers also took the opportunity to remind people that the most important thing to remember during an emergency call is to stay calm. One dispatchers notes that the best way to do that is to answer questions in the shortest way possible. Sometimes, the caller will start explaining the context that created the emergency situation, which only prevents an efficient response from emergency services. Dispatchers also noted that calling 911 is typically reserved for emergency situations, not situations that could use police assistance. Many cities have dedicated lines to police departments for non-emergency situations in order to prevent unnecessary traffic on the emergency lines.