Every once in a while there's a news story about a person calling 911 for bad service or some other totally non-emergent grievance. The latest comes from New York, where Rother McLennon called 911 because the Grateful Deli wasn't making his sandwich correctly.
If bad service was 911 worthy, I'd be calling every day.
The worst part of this story isn't that McLennon called 911 for the sandwich blunder; it's that he didn't get arrested for it (as far as we know). In most of these cases, the incident makes the news because the errant 911 caller gets tossed in the clink or at least gets a fine.
That sort of ending makes a story like this palatable -- apparently unlike McLennon's sandwich.
Ask any EMT or paramedic about crazy 911 calls and they're sure to give you plenty of examples. I've been called out for shortness of breath only to have the "patient" meet me curbside with a cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth. We've had plenty of calls for slivers and hangnails. Crying babies get more than their fair share of ambulance responses.
One of my favorites was getting called for a hair stuck on the tongue. It was off by the time I got there. One of my colleagues brags about going to a house for someone suffering from a bad dream.
Jeez! Go back to sleep.
Educating folks on when not to call 911 is much harder than it sounds. It's a fine line to suggest that some "emergencies" aren't really 911-worthy when you're not there to evaluate the situation. The system is set up for this. We use a concept called triage to decide which calls are really emergencies and dedicate our limited resources to those calls first. We get to the others when we can.
The dispatcher in this case did a great job remaining professional and calm. In the end she simply told the guy to wait outside for someone to come. She never told him how long it would be.
I wouldn't be surprised if he's still waiting.
- Rother McLennon Calls 911 Complaining That Grateful Deli In East Hartford Made His Sandwich Wrong « CBS New York.
- When Should You Call 911?
- Before You Call 911 on a Cell Phone