The week of April 14-20 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, honoring 9-1-1 operators and staff for their 24/7 service to our communities.
“Our dispatch center and trained 9-1-1 telecommunicators answer 700-800 calls every day. When those in our community need us, they rely on the ‘first’ first responders on the other end of the phone line,” Director Zim Schwartze said in a statement. “We receive over 261,000 9-1-1 calls in our county each year with a wide range of emergency situations. We are so very fortunate to have such highly trained and committed staff in our Operations Center, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I’m honored to be a part of the 9-1-1 profession, the Springfield-Greene County 9-1-1 Department, and the dedicated telecommunicators who serve our community every day.”
OI reached out to the staff of Greene County’s 9-1-1 service to see if they had any funny, crazy or even heart wrenching stories that stuck out to them.
One dispatcher quickly shared what he called his craziest call.
“It was during my first year,” he said. “I had a woman call me and say that she didn’t know who she was supposed to call. So I asked her what happened and she said ‘my neighbor shaved my cat.'”
He went on to say that the woman’s cat was normally an indoor cat that had gotten outside and gone into her neighbor’s property.
“I didn’t know how to handle it,” he said, “so I asked her if I could put her on hold while I talked to a supervisor. I could hear people around me laughing.”
The supervisor eventually determined that because a cat is technically property, it was a property crime and referred it to proper part of the police department.
Another story happened recently involving a man who was very happy that his car had a manual transmission.
“We recently received call from a man who very calmly told us that some woman he didn’t know walked up to his Mustang, got inside and wouldn’t get out of the car,” the dispatcher told OI. “We said we could rush out the police and the man said he wasn’t worried the woman would steal the car because she told him that she didn’t know how to drive a stick shift.”
Several dispatchers mentioned times where criminals made things really easy for police.
“We received a call one night from a man who demanding the police come to his house because someone had stolen his drugs,” one dispatcher said. “We asked him several times to make sure that he was calling about illegal drugs and wanted to report to police someone stealing his illegal drugs. He kept insisting he wanted to report it. So we sent police over and the caller had more drugs and drug paraphernalia sitting out in plain sight. They arrested him.”
Sometimes the callers to 9-1-1 ended up putting the dispatchers in unwanted situations.
“A few years ago a guy called us from Colorado,” the dispatcher said. “He said that his girlfriend had come back to Springfield and he hadn’t been able to get her on the phone for a few days. He said that it was very unusual and asked us to do a wellness check and call him back.”
After police were dispatched and found the woman, the dispatcher was suddenly in an awkward situation.
“Several of us were talking about who was going to make the call,” the dispatcher told OI, “but the guy who took the first call said he was the one who the caller asked to call back. So he called the guy and said ‘we found her, and she told us to tell you that she’s no longer your girlfriend and to never call her again.'”
“Then there was silence on the end of the line,” the dispatcher said. “So the guy on our end said ‘that’s the end of that. Bye.’ and hung up. When we asked about him saying ‘that’s the end of that’, my coworker said ‘the guy got quiet and I didn’t know what to say and that’s all I could think of.'”
And while many times the crazy calls lead to the unthinking criminal or funny situations, sometimes the crazy calls can end up changing lives.
One dispatcher shared a story where a man called 9-1-1 because he was breaking into cars so he could cut the air conditioning hoses that contained freon and was snorting the gas.
“What struck me was the way his voice kept getting deeper and deeper,” the dispatcher said. “I later found out that like helium makes your voice higher, freon makes your voice deeper. The deeper it got, the more I realized he was huffing more and more of the freon.”
She went on to say that she dispatched police to where the man called and the arrested him. The good news was that he was true to what he said on the 9-1-1 call when he said he wanted help.
“After rehab and other treatment, the man was able to rebuild his life and now has a steady job and is contributing to the community,” she said.