The Fire Yenta: Strange 911 calls

By Diane Feldman

In the last column, the Yenta asked, “What was your strangest 911 call?” Some responses follow.

From Lieutenant Tom Kiurski, Livonia (MI) Fire and Rescue: I had one of the guys play a piece on the Internet that had a little kid who called 911 because he needed help with his math homework. The mom’s voice enters, asks what he is doing, and the kid answers, “You told me to call 911 if I needed help.” How can you argue with that?

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From Tony Greco, Hackensack (NJ) Fire Department dispatcher:
“Hackensack 911, where’s your emergency?
“Hey, are the fireworks still on for tonight?”
True story.

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“911, where’s your emergency?”
“There’s a guy hit by a car. Pretty bad, man.”
“Where is it, sir?”
“It’s on Sycamore.”
“Sir, there’s no Sycamore.”
“I mean Sagamore.”
“Sir, I’m still not getting you.”
“OK, man. You know Lee Street?”
“Yes I do.”
“OK, cool. I’ll drag him down to Lee and you can pick him up there with an ambulance.”

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From Lieutenant Tom Kiurski, Livonia (MI) Fire and Rescue: About 15 years ago, a dispatcher dispatched police cars, fire trucks, and our fire-based EMS vehicles. She said it sounded like the 911 caller couldn’t speak, and the dispatcher didn’t know if the caller was choking on food, suffocating on smoke, or being strangled by an intruder. The street looked like a parade with all the emergency vehicles. When we entered the residence, we found a guy sleeping and snoring on his bed. When he rolled over, he knocked the receiver off the cradle and bumped the “emergency preprogrammed” 911 button with his elbow. The snoring fooled the dispatcher. The look on the guy’s face when he woke up was priceless!

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“911, where’s your emergency?”
“Wallpeene Street.”
“Excuse me, sir? There is no Wallpeene Street.”
“I said, Waaaaallllllllpeeeeeeeene Street.”
“Sir, can you please spell the name of the street?”
“Sure. It’s W-period-A-L-P-I-N-E, Wallpeene Street.”
“Sir, that’s WEST ALPINE!”

# # #

A woman called 911 and told the dispatcher she heard smoke.
“Excuse me, ma’am. You said you HEARD smoke?|”
“That’s right. I hear smoke.”
The dispatcher said, “Well go to your front window, and in a few minutes you’ll smell sirens!”

# # #

A woman called 911 to report a squirrel on fire. Apparently a squirrel ran up some high voltage wires, bit down, a transformer flashed, the squirrel was fried, and it tripped the power and caused a fire. The dispatcher sent units to a reported transformer fire, not a squirrel fire.

If you have a tidbit for the Fire Yenta, e-mail dianef@pennwell.com.

Diane Feldman is a 19-year veteran of Fire Engineering; she is executive editor and FDIC conference director. She has a B.A. in English/communications. Previously, she was an editor at the American Management Association in New York City.


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