The Yenta: Unusual 911 Calls

Image found on Wikimedia Commons courtesy of Boatymcboatface11.

By Diane Rothschild

From CNN: Alabama teenager Darby Risner was trying to pull a prank by wearing the big purple dinosaur costume when the massive mask got stuck on her head and shoulders. Her friends tried to help her out but only exacerbated the situation by pulling her in both directions. When the group was unsuccessful in helping to free Risner, they had to go with her to the fire station where firefighters removed the Barney mask. It took 45 minutes to extricate her. “When she first got there, we looked at it and it was tight,” Lt. Vince Bruno of Trussville Fire and Rescue told CNN affiliate WVTM. “It had come down around her shoulders and was holding her arms, which looked kind of like dinosaur arms because she could bend from the elbows down, and it was little comical.”

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal: The Clark County Fire Department is asking the public to stop calling 911 for “stubbed toes and sore throats” — actual examples of inappropriate emergency calls the department has received, Fire Chief Greg Cassell said. Facing record numbers of calls for service, Cassell instead urged people to call 911 only “for a true medical emergency, fire or police emergency.”

“We ran over 150,000 responses (to emergency calls) last year, and we anticipate — well, we don’t anticipate, we already know it’s up 3½ percent plus this year,” Cassell said. Elaborating on the things some people call 911 about, Cassell mentioned many calls about pets. “People will name their pets and they’re very passionate about their pets, but they will call up and say, ‘Somebody’s not breathing,’ ” Cassell said. “We think it’s a human being, we get there, and it’s their dog.”

From The Canadian Press: An upset Newfoundlander called 911 to report her pizza didn’t have enough cheese, police say. Const. Geoff Higdon said the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary took the call Friday from someone in the St. John’s area. “The individual had an issue with the company she bought the pizza from, and there wasn’t enough cheese, and had approached the company and didn’t like whatever response they had given,” Higdon said. “I’m not sure if by calling us they assumed there was some sort of action we could take, or what the situation was, but of course we advised the individual they just needed to speak with the manager of the company and not the police.”

In December, British Columbia’s largest 911 call centre, E-Comm911, issued a list of the top 10 reasons not to call the emergency line, based on actual calls received in 2015. Among them: Requesting the number for a local tire dealership; reporting an issue with a vending machine; asking for the nonemergency line; complaining a car was parked too close to theirs; reporting that a child wouldn’t put his seat belt on; telling police about a coffee shop that refused to give a refill; asking if it’s OK to park on the street; reporting someone had used a roommate’s toothbrush; seeking help getting a basketball out of a tree; and complaining that their building’s noisy air system was keeping them awake.

From WKYT in Lexington, KY: Dispatchers take hundreds of calls a day, and a lot of them estimate about half are true emergencies. From Lexington Fayette Urban County Government’s 911 call takers. “People want us to give them rides. They want us to unlock their cars,” explains call taker Michelle Haynes. “I got a call one time, a lady was very upset because her friend left with her charger,” described dispatcher Phillina Wingate. “She said ‘It’s gonna be an emergency if my cell phone dies.’ We’ve gotten calls for people asking for us to call and have a pizza delivered to their home. We are trained to always be professional. So that’s what we try to do. We just said, ‘Ma’am, that is not what 911 is for. Please do not call back. We cannot order you a pizza.’ “

Author’s Note: If you have an unusual 911 call to share, e-mail the Yenta at


Diane Rothschild, is a 27-year veteran of PennWell Corp.; the executive editor of Fire Engineering, Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment, and Fire Rescue; and the conference director of FDIC. She has a B.A. in English communications. She has been a yenta (look it up) for most of her life. If you have a story for the Yenta, e-mail


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