Every day, 911 dispatchers face the worst days of people's lives. What they see and hear is beyond what most people want to think about. These are their stories.
royal_potato asked: [Serious] 911 operators, what's the one call that will be with you forever?
Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.
The worst call I ever witnessed my mom take was a fatality on the interstate. She received a call said there was a major collision. She entered the call and police and fire were dispatched.
She then took another call about the same accident however this call was from someone attempting to help the people involved in the crash. The person trying to help was the mother and father of the daughter in the car. The Mom and Dad were following the daughter and boyfriend home when the accident occurred dad was trying to help the daughter and boyfriend, and mother called 911.
I can clearly remember my mom had this flip chart where she would ask questions and based on the answers she could flip to get medical help or basically instructions on what to tell the caller to help them in the situation. My mom asked if she was breathing if she was bleeding so on and so forth basically triaging the patients. I will never forget when my mom told the caller not to move the girl and the mother said "Her head is gone, my baby oh God my baby!" It was the most shrill gasp/sob/scream I have ever heard. The pain and inhuman anguish that poured from that woman.. I have never felt my blood run cold like that before. The mother kept asking my mom what do we do how do we help her.
Literally my mother looked down at her flip cards, looked at the call taker next to her and gulped for air.
I did not hear anymore from the call or what my mom said because I pushed my chair to the wall to get away from having to hear more.
They called in another person to take over for my mom and we never talked about that call again. My mother was a mess for a few days after that.
I also stopped going to the center after that. I thought for a long time I wanted to be a dispatcher and showed a lot of interest so that's why I got to sit in and watch. But not after that call..
How did that get in there?
That time a guy tried to convince me he fell on the vegetable lodged in his butthole.
Favorite quote that night was: "Before you come in, grab the haligan"
Or when I had a lady argue with me because she's lived next to the train yard for 54 years and is complaining about how much noise the trains are making.
"If you're going to call us and complain about trains, in a train yard, being trains there's nothing we can do ma'am"
Less fun was when I had to instruct a 13 year old how to do CPR on his definitely dead father until an ambulance could arrive, took 10min for the cops to arrive.
Kept asking me why it wasn't working.
That one had me drinking when I got home.
She was in shock.Trauma does that.
I work with a nurse line, finding people places to be seen after a nurse talks to them. I had a woman assaulted at her job, by a coworker. She had no idea if he was still around. She didn't want to go to the nearest medical facility, because he might show up there. I had to do some quick digging, but I found her a hospital ED 20 miles away, with SANE staff.
What gets me is she was so flat and emotionless. She never got teary, and had the presence of mind to call for advice but not any law enforcement.
She was probably in survival mode, just getting through what she needed to before dealing with the emotions.
Thank you for helping her.
I just experienced this for the first time last month (not in a rape scenario, thank god). It's amazing how you function on autopilot to do what needs to be done for the situation to move along. I didn't feel anything for about two days after that.
I hope this woman was able to process everything she went through.
This is heavy.
Former 911 Dispatcher. Anyone who's whose been a dispatcher has a ton of calls that'll be with them forever. Terrible things happen all around you all the time and you only ever really hear about it in one minute blurbs on the local news that make them sound generic and mundane. That being said, while it's probably not the worst call I ever took there is one that I think about a lot that I could share.
It was late on some holiday night. I think it was Christmas eve but it might have been New Years. A call comes in from a young woman saying that her boyfriend had been shot. Alright. I go through the usual run down for a shooting. Address? Is he breathing? Bleeding? Who shot him? etc.
Most calls that you take you don't really remember a lot of the actual details of except in broad strokes, but I think the fact that this call was such a long one and that I played this one back through my mind so many times I remember everything that happened.
"Who shot your boyfriend?" His Uncle
"Ok, where's his uncle now?" He went back inside
"Where are you and your boyfriend?" On the porch
"Is your boyfriend breathing?" I think so (You learn that that always means no)
"Is he bleeding? Is there a lot or a little bit of blood?" There's a lot of blood but I think it stopped (Great, he sounds like a goner)
"Can you still see or hear his uncle?" Yeah
"What's he doing?" He's just walking around inside
"Does he still have the gun" Yeah
"Ok, I need you to get away from there. Do you think you could leave without him seeing you? I'm not going to leave my boyfriend
"Alright, I understand that but I don't want anything to happen to you. I need you to leave. Is there another house there that you can go to?" No, I can't leave him (F*ck.)
So at this point my dispatch partner has been being a fantastic partner and realized that this situation is way outside of the what we can deal with the resources we have available in this hick town late on a holiday night so they've already started calling and waking up the cavalry but it's going to take a lot of time to get from two on duty deputies to what is essentially a hostage situation response.
In the meantime, I've been still trying to convince this girl to leave while talking her through some improvised simultaneous CPR/wound pressure holding.
"Ok, can you still see his uncle? What's he doing now?" He's just standing there watching us (F***cckkkk.)
"Ok, that's fine. Don't look at him" (So at this point I'm 100% convinced that any second I'm going to hear a BANG and then that'll be it for this one, so I decide that the only thing I can do is try make a court case against this guy with a first hand account of this double homicide so I start asking a bunch of other questions about what exactly happened etc.)
"Why'd his uncle shoot your boyfriend?" They were fighting over him dating a black girl (FFFF****CCKKKK).
"Ok, what's his uncle doing now? Is he still watching you?" He walked away from the door. He's sitting on the couch
"Does he still have the gun?" Yeah
"Ok, I need you to stop RIGHT NOW and leave." And this girl, who has been one of the most calm people I've ever talked to in a situation like this throughout this whole ordeal, just says again "No".
"What's he doing now?" "He still sitting on the couch."
"You're going to die if you don't leave right now." No, I'm not going to leave
So at this point I've swapped my headset over to push to talk because I'm sloppy crying into my hands while I listen too my partner yelling at someone on the phone that "She won't F*CKING leave!" because I know that we're still at least like half an hour out from getting people there.
So I just talk to this girl for a really long time. I tell her what a great job she's doing. I ask her all about her life and all kinds on mundane things about what kind of TV shows she watches all while she holds pressure on her dead boyfriend's neck. And I tell her that she's the bravest person that I've ever met because that's the truth.
Anyway, long story short the uncle miraculously fell asleep on the couch with a gun in his hands while boyfriend died on the porch. I guess he couldn't decide whether or not to kill the girlfriend too and his adrenaline crashed or something. The girl held pressure on the wound until the cops showed up and the medics took over. All said and done that took about 45 minutes from the time I answered until I hung up the call but it felt like 45 years.
The last thing I said to the girl was "Alright, I'm gonna let you talk to them now; you did great." but I think about her all the time and I hope that she's doing ok. I guess still feel a little responsible for her or something.
I guess all things considered that call went well as it could have but I know that it'll stay with me forever.
You can't unsear this from your memory.
The time when my caller watched a 16-year-old boy in the passenger seat of a BMW be burned alive. I can still hear her screams in my head.
Edit: He was 20 years old, not 16 yo.
Also related article:https://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-jupiter-dui-crash-20150226-story.html
Taking the call, hanging on for support.
I'll never forget a man calling up because his housemate was dead in the lounge room from an overdose and had been all day, he called around 9 P.M. or something. It was worse because their other housemate was an intellectually disabled guy who had been home all day and just didn't realise what was happening.
I told him to get her on the floor and started some CPR instructions, he did it for about 10 seconds before he said "my name, there is no point, she is gone." I asked what medicines were nearby and he started naming them and just said, there are too many, I'll collect them up for the ambos.
Anyway, we had gone through the formal process and I was getting ready to hang up. He asked me to stay and talk to him, so I did for about an hour while help was coming. He lived in the middle of nowhere. He said he was just sitting out on the back step and it just killed me listening to a grown ass dude being so wrecked, so when it was time to go I said goodbye and hit the end button before I burst into tears and ran away for 15 minutes.
I hope he is doing ok.
There was no way out.
Took a call from a non native English speaking Chinese woman. Her and her husband had just returned home from visiting family in China the night before. The husband who was a doctor said he had to get some work done before the next morning and was going to stay up late. The next morning the wife woke up and discovered that her husband never got in bed. She found him in the garage laying over the hood of their car. As I am talking to her and asking her to get him on the ground and perform CPR she said she couldn't. She was so distraught and didn't speak English well enough to articulate to me that her husband was actually in between their two cars and she had to back one of the cars up out of the garage to get him on the ground to perform CPR. Eventually she gave up trying to answer why she couldn't start CPR and started to scream "YOU'RE KILLING MY HUSBAND" at the top of her lungs. I had to listen to her shout that at me over and over and over for the better part of 5 minutes before medics arrived and in 911 call time that is an eternity. The coroner stopped in later that day and confirmed that the husband had a heart attack and been dead for hours, full rigor had set in and when they pulled him off of the hood of the car he began to spin like a top cause of the position of being hunched over the car. I know now that there was nothing I nor the wife could do to save her husband but for the longest time I've hated her for making me feel like I failed them. I've had sadder calls by far but that's the one that took the life out of me for continuing to do this job.
I'm so sorry she said that to you in the heat of her grief. That sounds like a dreadful experience. There's absolutely nothing anybody could have done.
Speaking of national emergencies...
There is never just "one" call. Unless you have a bad call and quit, which happens. Most of us are dealing with years of exposure to the worst day of people's lives.
I've worked a lot of really horrific traffic. Homicides, suicides, children murdered or beat to death, drownings, rapes, fatal accidents... everything. You can't really compare one to another as a "worst" or the "one."
One reason all our calls stick with us is that 911 operators are NOT considered first responders. We are administrative. Therefore we do not have the same benefits/resources to deal with trauma/exposure/PTSD or mental health in general. We can take a call and listen to a baby being stabbed. The officers that respond to the scene are eligible for therapy/services but we are not.
Please consider writing to your elected officials to help us get recognized as first responders so we are eligible for the mental health care/benefits other first responders receive.
*** 911 staff (aka PST - Public Safety Telecommunicators) need to be reclassified as "protective service occupation" to be eligible for similar benefits to what other first responders receive. If you want to learn more about what's been happening, APCO is the main agency for PST's that has been working hard to push for reclassification and they have good information on their website if you search "APCO SOC revision" in google. I'm super new to reddit so I'm not quite sure how to share a link. Right now we are at a standstill with the OMB because they are under the impression that PST's do not provide life saving care/guidance on 911 calls, which is highly inaccurate. Public pressure can and will help us get the classification we deserve.
How are 911 operators not considered first responders when they're literally the first ones to respond? I wasn't aware that they didn't get the same benefits. Thank you for all you do.
That's sickening. Not shocking at all that you don't get access to core medical services — welcome to America.
This is something that should be talked about more. Thank you for your work.
Thankfully people are talking about it more! Mental health in law enforcement/first responders used to be an extremely taboo topic. There are so many suicides for first responders. Thankfully agencies seem to have taken notice and are doing things to change this, at least on the sworn/field response side. Federal reclassification will help push departments to include 911 staff in their mental health coverage/programs.
Don't drink then drive.
I took a call for a vehicle in the ditch. All I could get out of the guy was "the old church road" out in the county. There are LOTS of old church roads. Had to wait for the cell phone to give me phase 2 and I was able to ping to a specific location.
The guy said it was a bad accident. I had no idea how bad he meant. I sent first responders and ambulance and my deputies. Turns out a kid my age (about 24) was out drinking and tried driving home. Smashed into a guard rail over a bridge and the kid wasn't wearing a seat belt so he was ejected over 60 feet from the wreckage of his vehicle and had been laying out in the snow for about an hour at that point.
Last I heard, he was paralyzed and one of his legs was amputated....
This obvious hit & run.
Dispatcher here. Our agency has calltake (they talk to the citizens), fire dispatch (they handle fd radio traffic, ems dispatch (contracted out thru AMR), and police dispatch (handles police traffic, this is where I am).
I've had some pretty scary radio traffic, but I don't ever actually speak to the citizens myself.
This is the call that's always stuck with me:
It's about 4am on a Tuesday and in my city it's pretty slow going at these times usually.
We've got our fair share of MHMR citizens that call a lot. Whether it's for a minor made up inconvenience, or to cuss us out, or scare the shit out of us saying something real bad is happening.
So we're just sitting around talking when I get an Auto vs Pedestrian call. Call text reads something like "Complainant sees body parts all over the road". Then proceeds to get REAL descriptive of how and what is laid out where.
So I send my units but my initial reaction is that this definitely isn't real... then 10 more people call it in.
My units run code (lights and sirens) and make the scene. Sure enough two bodies absolutely splattered across the roadway (not a highway or anything, 40mph zone).
I only had to read the carnage being described but what really messed with me is the report after.
According to the accident investigator, in order for that type of damage to have been done, the vehicle that hit them had to have been going at least 70mph.
The worst part is that there were no skid marks before or after the bodies were struck. Afaik we never found the suspect.
Racism is an insidious, and unfortunately prevalent, force in all of our daily lives. Maybe we're on the receiving end of it, being treated differently and losing opportunities because of others' preconceived notions.
Or maybe we're on the other side of things. Even those who aren't actively racist or discriminatory still have to process the world through the filters of the things they've been told about people who are different.