Wasting the emergency services' time
May 3, 2003 1:37 PM   Subscribe

Communications operator : "Hello police"
Caller: "My wife's left me two salmon sandwiches which was left over from last night... and I'm a sat in the chair here and she's out there decorating. She won't put any food on or anything for anybody, I don't know what...."
Communications operator: "I'm sorry but I really can't take this. It's not an emergency because your wife won't give you anything to eat."
posted by Mwongozi (15 comments total)
In case anyone doesn't realise, 999 is what you dial in the UK to get the emergency services, fire, police, ambulance, etc.
posted by Mwongozi at 1:38 PM on May 3, 2003

I'm from Bath, and I have a feeling I know the first caller. Bath is fast getting a reputation as a soft touch for junkies and drongoes.
posted by Joeforking at 1:57 PM on May 3, 2003

um, drongoes?
posted by john m at 2:25 PM on May 3, 2003

When I was living in SF a couple of summers ago, one of the guys in my building kept calling 911 - the US emergency number- because there were hookers loudly declaiming outside his window and the police weren't answering, or so he claimed. After three calls and three rebukes by the operator, he was told in no uncertain terms not to call 911 for non-life-threatening situations. Upon which hearing he snarled, "It is life-threatening! If those hookers don't shut up I'm gonna kill 'em!" At which point the operator dispatched officers to HIS room for making threats and to give him a little personal lesson in why he shouldn't use 911 to whine. Later, he still couldn't understand that he had done something wrong. He felt very put upon.

People kill me.
posted by umberto at 2:37 PM on May 3, 2003

Drongo: worthless or stupid person.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:47 PM on May 3, 2003

So, what are they going to do? Waste police and judicial resources by proscecuting each instance, or switch immediately to a recording explaining the proper use of 911 and then proceeding to the next caller?

Similarly in Atlanta, the public transit agency cracked down on cheats jumping turnstyles to avoid paying fares. The courts balked because they were so flooded by petty thieves that they couldn't prosecute the more serious felonies.

Economics, you gotta love 'em.
posted by mischief at 3:11 PM on May 3, 2003


The reputation of the british police forces, having been disarmed a few years ago in the (thoroughly discredited) theory that cameras everywhere would mean crime nowhere, is pretty horrifyingly weak.

I have this vision of a 999 call...

"Hello, Police"
"I have a headache!"
"This is the emergency line, we can't deal with that"
"Well I certainly couldn't call you if someone was bashing my head in; what might you do, glance a disapproving look? Perhaps shout a harsh word or two? Really! Now be a good lad, bring me some Aspirin"
"*sigh* It's on its way."
posted by effugas at 3:24 PM on May 3, 2003

Okay, the insurance one seems to just be a mental case. Hey, they exist, can't live with them, can't live without them.

The wasps one, though, that is life and death and I'm amazed the 999 operator didn't ask if anyone was allergic to them.

The others, though, are prime examples of stupidity. Although the potatoes one seems a bit like an old lady whose lost more marbles than glasses (again, what can you do?).

Just my 2 cents.
posted by shepd at 3:40 PM on May 3, 2003

A link to the Arcata Eye police log seems appropriate.
posted by Blue Stone at 5:19 PM on May 3, 2003

In the US, non-emergency calls are increasingly being handled by 311 centers providing a common gateway to municipal services such as trash pick-up. The telecom industry has also set aside 211 for social-services calls and 511 for traffic information. Apparently, where 311 services are implemented, public acceptance is high and 911 centers are relieved.
posted by dhartung at 11:57 PM on May 3, 2003

Mmm, salmon sandwiches. Lunch is hereby decided upon. (Gotta get some dill and mayo.)
posted by alumshubby at 6:17 AM on May 4, 2003

There was a documentary on a Scottish Ambulance service a while ago. Because they have to send an Ambulance to every call they were suffering terrible abuse. One guy would go out and get totally drunk and then he'd call 999 saying he had some problem or other. They'd take him to hospital at which point he'd refuse to go in and go to his home round the corner.
posted by dodgygeezer at 2:55 PM on May 4, 2003

3 weeks ago, after coming downstairs from making the kids' beds, the phone went and it was the Emergency Services control centre. 10 minutes previously someone had called 999 in obvious distress - all they could hear was a wierd grunting and sobbing.

My 2 year old son had randomly dialled them. "Happens all the time" the weary sounding radio operator told me.
posted by Pericles at 6:00 AM on May 5, 2003

In Colorado, enhanced 911 will connect you with 911 if those three digits appear anywhere in an unfinished dialing sequence.

My ex-in-laws were resident managers of an assisted living retirement home. One of the resident's children had the unfortunate experience of having 911 in their phone number...so grandma summoned the ambulance at least once a week when she forgot what she was doing. We finally taught her how to use the speed dial feature on her phone.
posted by m@ at 8:41 AM on May 5, 2003

One night a while back, I felt like ordering a pizza, but didn't know the number of the pizza place I wanted to call, and so I dialed 411...

...except I didn't, I dialed 911.

Even though I explained the mistake to the dispatcher, they were still obliged to send a police officer to the house.

The least he could have done was pick up the pizza and bring it with him. I'm a good tipper.
posted by briank at 11:35 AM on May 5, 2003

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