I am not a huge reditter, but I decided to give it a shot! I have worked as a 911 Operator for almost a year, and will be answering for the next few hours.

Well guys, this was fun. Thanks for having me!

Comments: 370 • Responses: 95  • Date: 

ARKB1rd4481 karma

No questions. Thank you for all your hard work.

hatianrefugee45 karma

Our pleasure! Thanks for the comment.

masguay54 karma

Is there a way to text 911? It'd be much more convenient to text rather than call if a murderer is in your home.

hatianrefugee53 karma

Yes, there is a new system that allows that, but very few agencies have it. The SO in my county actually is implementing it in a few months to where 911 can receive texts, pictures, and videos that have locations attached to them. I believe they are calling this NextGen 911, but I am not sure on that.

horrblspellun20 karma

Utah turned on 911 texting last December. They are hoping by the end of this year to have the ability to receive pictures and video.

hatianrefugee19 karma

Yeah, it's awesome. We got to sample it and it was very interesting. For us, this just means another screen to watch haha

Yohual36 karma

There is really a big amount of jokes instead of actual emergencys?

PD: Sorry for bad english.

hatianrefugee40 karma

Occasionally, but not often. I have only had one so far. People generally understand not to prank 911.

Antinous19 karma

that's strange because a 911 dispatcher who did an AMA a few months ago said she got a prank call about every 5 minutes

hatianrefugee27 karma

No...that's just false. I have taken one prank call in 10 months. If her definition of prank is stupidity, then yes I get those all the time, but as for true pranks, those are few and far between.

mayaseye26 karma

Not trying to dispute your answer, but I work in a fairly largish 911 center and we get prank calls quite often. I guess it all depends on the population and the area.

hatianrefugee6 karma

Hmm, honestly, I have not really had much contact with other agencies, but we rarely get them. I'll talk to the SO dispatchers and see what their answer is, but my personal experience (which is only 10 months on one shift| has been pretty limited with prank calls.

ImNotGoodInEnglish11 karma


hatianrefugee21 karma

Majority are suspicious persons, domestics, thefts, and drugs.

Sir_not_sir32 karma

How often does the caller get arrested?

hatianrefugee41 karma

Not that often, but I have seen it happen. Mainly its because they are intoxicated/combative when police arrive.

Jackisback12330 karma

What's the strangest/scariest/saddest call you've taken?

hatianrefugee104 karma

Strangest: Someone wanting police to dumpster dive for their car keys.

Scariest: I was on the phone with a lady who was reporting a suspicious person that had come to the door asking odd questions. He left so she thought, but he actually when around back and came in. The guy attacked her when she wasn't expecting it and stabbed her while I was still on the phone with her.

Saddest: A man got his skull crushed on the side of the interstate trying to change a tire and no one stopped to help him. His wife didn't speak English and it took 3 of us to calm her down and get some type of location. The first officer on scene vomited from the sight.

fappatron10017 karma

Scariest: I was on the phone with a lady who was reporting a suspicious person that had come to the door asking odd questions. He left so she thought, but he actually when around back and came in. The guy attacked her when she wasn't expecting it and stabbed her while I was still on the phone with her.

That old lady on the youtube 911 call?

hatianrefugee47 karma

No, I have listened to that one though (used during training). The circumstance were different, but basically a very similar call. The one I dealt with was a younger lady who thought this was a friend of her husbands from work asking about his whereabouts that day (aka, was he home). She told him he was out (mistake) and thought he was working an overtime shift. He came in, broke in, stabbed her, didn't realize she was on 911 and ran. The elderly lady on the youtube video died from her wounds, fortunately this lady survived.

DancesWithDownvotes5 karma

Language line is your friend!

Lazy_Scheherazade3 karma

What's that?

hatianrefugee6 karma

A transfer service that provides interpreters for 911 calls.

otakuman3 karma

Scariest: Did she survive? Was the guy caught?

EDIT: Typo

hatianrefugee3 karma

Yes, she survived and the next shift found him and got into a foot pursuit, but caught him.

techiebabe-23 karma

Sorry to be "that guy" (actually girl) but I'm guessing you mean their skull was crushed, rather than a skill of theirs.

Sounds horrid, tho.

hatianrefugee7 karma

Yeah my apologies, I did mean skull.

Wrestlingisgood28 karma

Is it emotionally draining listening to emergencies all day long, how has it taken it's toll.

Also, what is the oddest call you have gotten.

hatianrefugee38 karma

It takes a special kind of attitude to do it. Emotionally, not so draining, but sometimes you are just worn out at the end of a day. The main emotional stress is when you just don't know the outcome of a call when it was a bad situation. As for oddest call, I have had a few, The two that stick out are the naked man that was described as well-endowed or the mentally unstable lady wanting us to destroy her car because her boyfriend put a wire tap in it.

DancesWithDownvotes1 karma

A lot of times I find my main stressor is my coworkers. God knows I wasn't meant to spend 12 hours a day with people I might as well be married to. That and the turnover rate. And getting called in all the time.

hatianrefugee2 karma

Yes, all of those are my main stressors. Turnover rates and being confined in small, dark areas with people that may have...unique...personalities all can take a toll. Then when you get upset callers and stressful events it can compound quickly.

BlankTaste25 karma

What would be your reaction to someone immediately asking for help as they are getting killed? Do you try and locate them? Because in movies most of the time it's like "OMG HELP MEEE !! " "Where are you?" "He's coming after me!!!!" "Tell me where you are" "omg help!!! ahhhh!!!" Please tell me the realistic version of what an Operator has to do at that exact moment?

hatianrefugee28 karma

Exactly that. Its the same reason the proper answering protocol is "911 Where is your emergency". Location is the most important thing. I can have an exactl detail of everything, but if I dont know WHERE it is going on, I cant really send anyone. The new 911 system provides Cell Phone Signal location and address for land lines. Police would be sent to that location, but my main concern would still be verifying the location if she is hysterical. If she is calm, then I would walk her through some options such as escape, hiding, etc... Regardless, (particularly for older movies), the dispatcher continuously asking a location is accurate.

choixpeau8 karma

Does the address for land lines include the apartment number if it's an apartment? Or just the building address? (I ask because if you look someone up in my local 411, you get the building but not the apartment.)

hatianrefugee11 karma

Depends. If the building uses a PBX system I only get the main line (So for large office complexes, I can get the complex but not the location inside it). For apartments, I can usually get the Apt. # because it is registered with the phone company by the person and most people include the apt #. For apartments that provide a land line to the residents, that may not be correct because it could all be in one large account registered to the main office.

Lazy_Scheherazade2 karma

You use "she" a lot. Do you get more calls from women than from men?

hatianrefugee3 karma

It's about equal. I guess it is slightly slanted towards women because they are more apt to recognize when they need help whereas men think they can handle it themselves or that it isn't a big deal.

WalkingEnigma18 karma

If you cried after a call, would you be viewed by your bosses as not emotionally fit for the job?

hatianrefugee31 karma

Hmmm, I have never actually seen someone do that. There is always that one call that gets to you, and you never actually expect that that would be the call to do it. I have seen people leave early before, take longer breaks, etc, but I would say if I cried in front of my boss that I would just be given a few days off to gather myself, but I wouldn't actually be deemed unfit.

BlackEyedPease14 karma

Have you ever got a call that made you freeze up?

hatianrefugee32 karma

Oh yes. Week 1 of call taking I had a huge freeze up. From the first comment, I had that mentally unstable person ask us to rip her dash open cause she was being wire tapped by her ex boyfriend. I didn't really know what to say....took me a good 10 seconds to articulate a response.

Had one call where they asked us to come break into their house cuase they were locked out, also kinda stuttered on that one.

I have not frozen on an emergency call just because it is much more natural to me, protocols are in place very well, and you WANT to help the person. The ones I have frozen up on are the strange, odd ones that really aren't an emergency.

grizzlyking5 karma

Do people call to break into houses often, my parents locked themselves out of the house and brother who was a baby was in there still so they broke a window to get in so I just assumed it was fairly common

hatianrefugee8 karma

It has happened to me twice, but I know lockouts in general are fairly common throughout the department.

StuffedHamburger12 karma

Do you like the job? If you don't mind me asking, how is the pay?

hatianrefugee24 karma

I love my job. I am hoping to become an officer soon, but I love being a dispatcher as well. The pay isn't the greatest, but it is fair. Mid 13 dollar range starting off with full benefits, good leave and sick time, and easy advancement to higher pay.

ElectricHazzard11 karma

have you ever needed to talk someone out of suicide? i just did, im not sure if she was really gonna do it, but it was still really emotional when she told me that its because of me she's alive. i could not stop shaking or crying. if you have talked someone out of suicide, was it as emotional for you as it was for me?

hatianrefugee34 karma

It wasn't emotional for me because I didn't know them personally, but I did find it odd and just awkward really. I just did my training and let it pass on. I could imagine if I know the person it would be much different.

tboneynot11 karma

One of you helped me deliver my son on my kitchen floor (11 minutes of labor), so THANK YOU! But I could never figure out how to get in touch with the specific operator that helped us that day. Any tips?

hatianrefugee12 karma

All of that is logged. Swing by the local call center and ask them who took the call and if they are reasonable they should help you find the information.

perd111 karma

How do you feel about gun control given your line of work?

hatianrefugee123 karma

Honestly, it's a sticky subject. From what I have seen, gun control won't really help. These guys modify weapons left and right, make homemade addons, etc... Background checks are important in my opinion, but it isn't the solution. I have had horrific calls involving guns and horrific calls involving knifes or fists. The saying that "Criminals will kill and assault with or without guns" is very, very true. I think better education with weapons, encouraging responsible gun ownership, encouraging citizens to protect themselves smartly, and tough laws regarding crimes with guns will help reduce gun violence. But it won't stop criminals.


Sorry if you already answered this but i really want to know.

Under what circumstances(as in type of phone) are you not able to trace the call?

If you can trace it, why ask for their location?

can you trace EVERY smart phone?

how accurate is the trace?

If someone just pressed 9-1-1 and "call" then hung up after like one second of it ringing, what will happen?

how do you tell information to the police?/ what type of information do you tell the police?

how is that "text 911" thing coming along?

ever had anybody prank call 911?

If someone called and sounded distressed and screaming "I AM AT generic street name AVENUE AND generic street name" then the call ended, what would you send?

hatianrefugee13 karma

We have limited on Tracing phones that are prepaid. We can trace them but the information on file is usually wrong, and if the phone is turned off, we really cant do much. VoIP is the same thing.

The trace is not always working or correct, they be calling about an incident at another location, and the machine may be routing old caller information.

As long as the Sim Card is in and the phone is on, we can make it happen.

Depends on the type. Type 1 E911 gives you a cell site location (not very accurate) and Type II will get you Latt/Long which automatically displays on a map feature, so that is very accurate. Land lines are address linked.

It will go through and display a 911 hang up on the ANI/ALI.

The call taker gets the information and opens a CAD Card, when he or she saves the card the dispatcher can see it and he dispatches units. We are all in the same room as well, so we can talk and discuss calls. My agency does Fire and Police. So, Fire Dispatch, Police Dispatch, and 911 Call Taking all happen in the same room (and by the same people, we get cross trained and rotate every couple hours to prevent boredom). For medical calls, we get basic information and transfer/conference the call to EMS.

It's available, it just costs a lot of money and time to implement. It requires a lot of system upgrades and modern technology. Our agency will not get it because since the Sheriff's office will get able to receive it, then they can relay things to our office that need our attention.

Yes, but it's very rare. We get maybe 1 a month that is a prank call. In the 10 months I have been there, I have only taken 1 true prank call.

I would send police. If they sounded very panicked or in some type of unusual state then I would send them upgraded. The police would then secure the scene and determine whether EMS/Fire should be en route. If there was something that hinted at a medical, I would also notify EMS to stage.

ImNotGoodInEnglish6 karma


hatianrefugee10 karma

Call 911, turn the speaker all the down, put it on speaker phone, and try to whisper short phrases that indicate trouble such as "Help" "Intruder" "Gun". try to give some type of location if able. If you had to be totally silent. Just keep the line open and allow them to hear. I heard one story about the guy pressing SOS out on the keypad. We always ask you to verify by saying a number or something like that, such as "If you are in trouble say a number between one and 5" or "If you cannot speak freely, say that you're safe". Thingslike that.

ghillisuit953 karma

What is ANI/ALI?

hatianrefugee5 karma

It is a machine that gives us caller information and location.

Automated Number Identification and Automatic Location Identification.

Jehoel1 karma


hatianrefugee3 karma

It means emergency traffic (Code 3, lights and sirens, etc)

parple8 karma

Do you ever get annoyed by callers who you don't perceive have an emergency? I had to call for the first time a few weeks ago and was terrified that I'd be told I didn't have a big enough emergency (I wasn't, and there was a true emergency, but still scared of it)

hatianrefugee23 karma

No, in training that is something that is stressed is that people hesitate to call 911 because they aren't sure if it is appropriate. I have never got annoyed with callers that have a legitimate problem that requires assistance. To everyone: when in doubt, call 911. We can transfer you if it is non-emergency, and most of the time, we answer the non-emergency lines too. I get annoyed by people that call for stupid things like getting keys out of a dumpster, but overall, don't stress about calling 911 because it's our job to help. If a dispatcher gets annoyed by taking 911 calls, then they shouldn't be in that job. There are a few that don't like taking calls, and I never understood why, but I can assure you, we never say "Oh that wasn't a large enough emergency to call 911". Any actual emergency is a large enough emergency to call 911.

sonymoi7 karma


hatianrefugee7 karma

Well pressing Emergency Call on the iPhone actually just brings up a key pad to make a call. We get calls weekly that are accidental, and it isn't a big deal. Children, butt dials, and people accidentally speed dialing it. It's pretty common, and it isn't a huge deal.

hagger137 karma

How much information do you receive after the call? Have you ever been left wondering what happened to someone you spoke to?

hatianrefugee8 karma

Depends on the call, but usually I can eventually find out all the details either by obtaining the police report in our system or catching the officer around the station. It always takes a few days or weeks though, so sometimes it just sits in you and makes you wonder what happened for a while until you find out. Some calls, you never find out. With medicals, I transfer them to EMS for tone outs and they have a separate system, so I rarely know the dispositions of them.

Ryuko6 karma

Okay, so when I am driving on a freeway and see a vehicle broken down with smoke/in a ditch/whatever, is it the right thing to call this type of thing in? I reason that the situation can be worse then I see it or could get worse, and it is likely that everyone assumes that the drivers/riders have cell phones so they don't call... I worry the situation needs assistance and may not be getting addressed....

Am I wasting your time with my call?

hatianrefugee8 karma

Nope, you aren't wasting the time. Don't over exaggerate though. If everything appears to be ok, tell them that. If you call and say "Hey, I just drove by and saw a car in a ditch that was smoking and wrecked" then they are going to roll Rescue, Fire, and launch LifeFlight per protocol. if everyone is kind of standing around, make sure you let them know that no one appears to be injured. A property accident versus a vehicle accident are two entirely different responses.

roastedbagel6 karma


hatianrefugee3 karma

Edit: Added that in my description.

king_pickles4 karma

13/hr thats so sad, Thats just as bas as an E1 pay in the military

hatianrefugee7 karma

Yeah, new hires are 13.50 an hour here. You quickly get over 14, but the pay is not good until you become a supervisor/CTO. Even then, it's just good, nothing special.

turbosexophonicdlite2 karma

Is the cost of living manageable in Tennessee? I live in PA and 13.50 would barely get you by, but I have family in NC that can live quite comfortably at 13.50 per hour.

hatianrefugee2 karma

Yes, TN is a great state especially in larger cities. Lots to do, good culture and food, no income tax, and very manageable living costs.

turbosexophonicdlite2 karma

So starting around 13.50 isn't terrible to start off?

hatianrefugee2 karma

No, I was ok with it. You build up quick and for the cost of living in my area it was..alright. 13.50 is for a day 1 no experience trainee. It builds relatively fast, but the pay isn't the glamour of this job for sure.

pellinoor4 karma

What is the funniest call that you've ever heard?

Weirdest situation?

hatianrefugee21 karma

Funniest was probably when I had a call regarding the streaker. The only description they could give was a white male that was... well endowed.

Weirdest situation was when we had a man call and complain that his wife was being too loud and threatening their dog. Turns out, he had just beat her with a 2x4 and thought that since A) We didn't see it he couldn't be arrested and B)that since he called he couldn't be arrested.

Turns out, he can and was arrested. A few weeks later, we got a call to the same house, except this time, it was a noise complaint by a neighbor. The husband came home from jail to find his wife in bed with another woman....the other woman assaulted the male and fled on foot.

We never caught her and haven't heard anything from the residence since. Overall, one strange incident(s).

chosen_pessimist4 karma

I've always wondered what happens when someone who calls in doesn't speak English?

Also, how important is it to give your location at the start of the call?

hatianrefugee9 karma

There is a service called language line. The second call taker dials language line, gets them on the phone, explains a bit of what is going on (if we know anything), and then they conference in the call and translate. There has been instances where the language is unknown so it took several attempts before they located the correct translator, but we do have resources for non-english speaking callers.

Location is the most important. I can know who you are, what is going on, suspect descriptions, vehicle descriptions and tags, but if I don't know where you are, then I can't send anyone. With the new system it is usually provided, but the 911 operator should still verify your location and the location of the actual incident. If they don't, make sure you offer the information before the call disconnects, same with a callback number. If I hear "Help, this guy is breaking in, he has a gun, I need police Im at home alone" and then the call disconnects then if my ANI/ALI machine is down I really can't do much other than try to ringback. If you said "Help, I am at 311 West Main and this guy is breaking in and has a gun" then it disconnects, now I can send help.

chosen_pessimist4 karma

Oh that's neat about the language line, I've never heard about that. I live in a bilingual city where I'm sure many of the operators are also bilingual, but I figured every now and then they encounter a language other than what they're familiar with.

I ask about the location thing because the three times I've had to call the first thing out of my mouth was "I'm at blah blah address and this is what happened..." and it seemed like it threw them off.


hatianrefugee7 karma

Yeah it threw them off because most people don't do that! I would keep it up, I always love when the caller gives me the location off the start. I'm sure in certain cities they have bilingual dispatcher. We don't have any here, but we do have a supervisor that speaks spanish, a few officers that do, and one Sgt. that speaks Korean. The language line is a great tool for us though, easy way to get information quickly.

satanismyhomeboy4 karma

Have you ever heard somebody die while you were speaking to them?

If so, how did it affect you?

hatianrefugee12 karma

I have not. The lady that was stabbed on the phone survived, and I actually met her a week after it happened. I have taken calls (mainly medicals) where the individual later died, but no one has died on the phone with me. A coworker did have it happen to him, but honestly, I have not seen it effect it, at least externally. It might be eating him up inside, but it was several months ago, so maybe it really isn't bothering him.

jcline283 karma

Have you ever had a call that haunted you at night?

hatianrefugee10 karma

There are a few. I get over them by trying to find the outcome of the incident by talking to the officers that were on scene or wrote the report. The one that really got to me was about a girl who called crying and spilled all of this information to me about being abused by her boyfriend. The details were not pretty and to be honest, I was shocked humans could do that to each other. Sometimes, it is hard to do, but separating work and your personal life is a must have. If you can't clock out, go home, and enjoy life without thinking about work, then this job is not for you.

sweetiet11803 karma

How did you get your job as a dispatcher? I always thought this would be an awesome job, but I'm not sure where I would even start if I wanted to do it.

hatianrefugee3 karma

Search around. Call your local agencies and surrounding counties. A way a few of my colleagues got into it was part-time dispatching at universities. I got mine by simply going through the interview process. I was well articulated, well educated, and had a stable history. I performed well on the application tests and they hired me. Easy as that.

Joker223 karma

What is your favorite color?

hatianrefugee2 karma


DoubleHammy2 karma

So this might seem stupid... but I'm being serious.

If our pet is having a medical emergency, then do we call 911?

Thanks for doing an AMA!

hatianrefugee2 karma

Unfortunately, I wouldn't. There is not much we can do. Your best bet is to just put him in the car and drive him to the vet.

gbeer2 karma

Has anyone close to you ever been arrested? Have you ever arrested someone close to you? And has anyone close to you been in an emergency which came up on your dispatcher?

hatianrefugee9 karma

Not to me. I work in a city several hours away from my family, so I don't really run that risk. A dispatcher that no longer works here did take a call from a store manager that he was being assaulted and it turned out to be his brother as the perpetrator, but that's the only instance I know. An EMS Dispatcher took a call for a cardiac arrest that was her father (she did not know it at the time), but I don't really know many of the EMS people.

mariuolo1 karma

it turned out to be his brother as the perpetrator

What's the procedure in cases like these? Does another unit get dispatched because of a conflict of interest?

hatianrefugee2 karma

No, it was the dispatcher's borther haha. For an officer, then yes another unit would be sent out to handle the case.

tgtp22 karma

Did you ever hang up on someone?

hatianrefugee10 karma

I haven't, but I assure you, I have wanted to.

Jehoel1 karma


hatianrefugee6 karma

No, I cannot hang up. Our policy is every call gets a response, so if you call 911 (even if you say, hey this was an accident, im sorry), we will send an officer to welfare check you.

balli1013 karma

This is not the case in Canada. I worked for a company where you had to press 9 to get an outside line, then 1 is the country code.. So, you can see where this is going. 9-1-1.. oh shit.....

If you accidentally called them you stayed on the line and explained that its balli101 from XYZ, and you accidentally called them, the person would confirm to make sure you are okay. If you didn't stay on the line they would send someone out to check.

hatianrefugee2 karma

Yeah, I have had a few calls like that. 9 to get out and 1 dial so if you don;t watch it that one is pressed again. Our policy still requires a response (non-emergency) just to verify welfare. Usually we can spare a unit to do this without issue. CYA!

Mobile_Artillery2 karma

What's the rudest thing someone has ever said to you during a call, how did you handle it?

hatianrefugee5 karma

That's a hard one. I have been cussed up and down, called every name in the book, one caller said and I quote that "I make god kill puppies". Sometimes, people call expecting one specific solution or expect to get a certain type of response, but then they don't get it or our procedures aren't to their suiting. At first, it bothered me a lot that people that did that didn't understand why we do what we do and would cuss us out for helping the best we can, even if it is not as much as they would like. Now, it rarely bothers me. I do what I can to help, they are in a stressful situation, and if they need to let some steam off then so be it.

joshrkc7 karma

well...do you make god kill puppies?

hatianrefugee11 karma

hahaha, no, I don't, but she sure seemed to think so. It's always the woman that go crazy.

cubanb492 karma

Who is your employer? The city, county or state?

hatianrefugee8 karma

I work for a city of about 100,000 in TN.

phil543212 karma

How often do you get calls relating to suicide/self-harm? How do you talk to a suicidal person on the phone?

hatianrefugee9 karma

A few a week. It's more common that I think society wants to admit. I was shocked at the number we got when I started working to be honest. Usually, the suicide calls are relays and its not the actual person, but I have spoken to a few. The main thing to do is distract distract distract. Ask why they are wanting to do this, ask about their family, ask about their job, ask ask ask ask. What you don't wanna do is challenge their answers or talk more than they do. If they are going to do it, there is not much you can say to stop them, but if you can delay it long enough for officers to arrive, then they live.

WantedDead4 karma

I've often thought that someone who is suicidal and, for example, going to shoot themselves, might not react terribly well to find law enforcement knocking on their door. Do you know of any instances in which responding police were attacked or fired upon by persons threatening suicide?

hatianrefugee7 karma

I have not had that happen while I was working, but I have heard of something like that happen, officer use a lot of caution with that. One situation I do know of is a situation where a mother killed the kids, called about suicide, officers came and she shot at them, then lit the house on fire. That was a county over, so it does happen.

Cytosolic2 karma

How would you describe the stress level in your job? Is it 99% boredom and 1% sheer terror?

hatianrefugee10 karma

75% boredom interrupted by moments of shear stress and adrenalin. Each day is different though. Some days it is pretty steady and well paced, others it is sporadic. Just all depends on the levels and types of calls.

EL_312 karma

I know this is old and you may not get this but I have always wondered about what 911 dispatchers think about people who call in drunk drivers. Or just drivers who are driving crazy. One time I called in a drunk driver. He was obviously drunk or very stupid. He almost hit me and kept pretending like he was going to. I was the passenger and as soon as he realized what I was doing he took off. I had already written down his license plate number though. Another time I was driving down a road with only 2 lanes. One going each direction. I was going between 55–60 and the speed limit was 55. There was a big rig on my ass and he was swerving in and out of the other lane behind me like he wanted to pass me. I had my 6 month old in the back seat and was getting really nervous. So I ended up calling 911 to report him and the lady sounded annoyed. The driver ended up getting in the wrong mane to pass me and got into the freeway driving really fast and he was a big rig. Made me so nervous.

hatianrefugee6 karma

I am good with it. The officers in my city will go all out to find reported reckless drivers, and I take many of those calls, and treat them as appropriate. The times I have called in those types of drivers I have always used the non-emergency lines (it goes to dispatch usually), but honestly, if you have reason to think they are intoxicated then call 911. it happens all the time and I find it to be ok.

Dookie_boy2 karma

Hypothetical: If a victim was gagged and tied, could they just dial 911 in the hope that the police will trace the location and respond ?

Thank you for your hard work and doing this ama.

hatianrefugee7 karma

yes, we would be able to listen in to the situation, track it's location or see ANI/ALI location, and send response units. For open lines we always send an officer.

americaFya2 karma

Can you describe your ideal call from a "deliverable" perspective? Like, if you were able to train people on how they should speak to you from the moment you answer, how would it go? Should the first thing I give you be the address of where I need the help?

I've noticed over the last couple years, our 911 operators have changed from "911 What is your emergency?" to "911 do you require police, fire or rescue?" Any thoughts on that change?

hatianrefugee6 karma

That means they have a different set up and probably transfer the call under certain circumstances. We train to answer 911, where is your emergency in case the call is disconnected early.

The opening line of your 911 for me would be: "I am at 123 E Main Street and I require police assistance" Wait for the dispatcher to query you (they are typing information). Speak slowly and loudly. When they ask you questions, provide as much detail as possible, but only relevant details such as clothing descriptions, weapon types, direction of travel, and any injuries. The big ones are life threatening situations, officer safety issues, suspect descriptions, suspect location/direction of travel.

I think that the change is probably effective because it gives the caller 3 clear options to pick from. This allows your PSAP to route the call. Since we handle police and fire (first responder medical too) we answer and process all types of calls, so it would be less effective/applicable for us

MoXria2 karma

How well do you have to know the city in which work? I mean can you not mis-hear the caller and send the cops to the wrong part of town? I work in dispatch for a taxi firm I once sent a taxi, a day early out of town, and another time I misunderstood the caller and sent the taxi about an hour late. This is all the while when they are calm etc, I imagine people who call you guys can be stressed, shouting etc and you can easily not know which location they are in?

hatianrefugee5 karma

There was incident in New York in Buffalo where a dispatcher sent help to Elington St. because the caller just said 313 Elington. (Not sure of the actual street name). Police got there, said it didn't exist, no follow up was made and life went on. Twenty minutes later, police in a nearby town reponded to reports of screaming at 313 Elington Drive and found a person who had been stabbed. The call was incorrectly routed. It happens sometimes. You have know the various versions of street (Streets, drives, courts, etc..) and make to verify that with the caller. Also, knowing major land marks like stores, large buildings, and chains all help in determining a caller's location.

ONeill1172 karma

I was driving down the motorway when I got undertaken by another car, who then continued to swerve between traffic at really high speeds. I was tempted to call it in because i was sure an accident was bound to happen.

Should I have?

hatianrefugee2 karma

Ultimately, the decision is yours. I would have called in about it at least on the non-emergency number, but if you were certain he was an immediate danger then call 911.

karazykid2 karma

As a fellow dispatcher/911 operator it is very interesting getting to hear questions being answered from another dispatcher. If you do not mind me asking some questions (and I might have overlooked some of the question/answer already) But how big is your dispatch center? Who all do you dispatch for? i.e we only have 2-4 at a time covering an entire county, and dispatch everything except medical. Those we transfer to a local EMS service.

hatianrefugee2 karma

My center covers the city area with 5 to 7 per shift. The Sheriff's Office has a center with 5 to 7 per shift. We dispatch Police and City Fire, SO does Deputies and County Fire. All EMS calls get conferenced or transferred. We have 3 city jurisdictions, one university jurisdiction, and the county. All in all, I would say there are 16 to 21 dispatchers throughout the county at various agencies.

7dare1 karma

What's your funniest "called by accident" incident?

Do you have to do something about accidental calls or pranks?

hatianrefugee6 karma

Honestly, not really. I did have someone call the 10 digit number that was linked to our 911 lines (yes 911 has an actual number associated with it). She said she was looking for Pauline....that was awkward .

7dare1 karma

So if you get a prank call you just hang up?

hatianrefugee2 karma

No we can't. Our policy requires a response, so an officer would go verify welfare.

Charlboro_Lights1 karma

I've heard this isn't supposed to be known (as in it wasn't really announced), but do you actually have a direct line to the FBI if someone were to call and needed their call transferred there? Sorry if this is a repeat question.

hatianrefugee4 karma

No, I do not. I have drop lines to EMS, Sheriff's, EMA, and University Police, but that's it. I can look the number up in our directory and transfer you though.

Rat_of_NIMHrod1 karma

How do I become a 911 operator and what skills should I possess?

hatianrefugee4 karma

Some agencies require you to be 18 or 21. It various state to state and agency to agency but here are the pretty universal ones:

High School Diploma, some type of law enforcement experience (internships, etc), clean criminal history, no history of mental instability, previous communications experience is usually a plus (Not necessarily emergency communications experience). Most places prefer a Bachelor's as well.

Because the field is so specific in nature, they don't really care about previous experience (unless you have it), so the main thing to focus on is a stable job history, some type of police experience like an internship, and your personal qualities.

As a person, you need to be outgoing, willing to help, easy to understand, and durable. You will be required to do a lot of training, work each shift while on training, and are expected to be proactive in learning.

Good personality traits are: Easy going Authoritative when needed Extrovert Sense of humor stability willing to learn good verbal communication skills Self-Confidence (Not cockiness) Friendly, team players.

You have to sit in a small dark room for half a day with 4 to 7 people dealing with stressful, confusing, and emotional calls, so basically, you have to be likable and you have to be able to keep your sanity during stress and control your emotions.

Rat_of_NIMHrod1 karma

Wow, that does sound like it could become stressful! I am a chef by trade but have very strong communication skills and have benn the one to "remain calm" most of the time. I also have a few misdemeanors under my belt. Nothing standing. Candidate?

hatianrefugee1 karma

Sure thing. Kitchen's build team work and communication (So i assume from hell's kitchen :P ) So long as the misdemeanors weren't things that could be red flags like larceny or domestics, then you should be good. Make sure to focus on the application tests, answer the questions on background truthfully (trust me, when we get bored, the dispatchers and supervisors have a game...it's called see what we can dig up on applicants, and I can assure you that dispatchers are nosy and good at their jobs :P ), so everyone in the interview room knows everything there is to know. Be likeable, upbeat, and honest and you will make it through! Good luck!

Uni_Boober1 karma

Volunteer ff/emt here, getting ready to take the civil service test for dispatcher and public safety dispatcher in June. Any advice for me regarding the tests?

hatianrefugee3 karma

Honestly, just don't second guess yourself. Those things are wordy to make you double back. Go with what your confident in and stick to it.

NingNongNangNinja1 karma

If someone has already asked this I apologise, couldn't see it. How often do you get calls?

hatianrefugee2 karma

Varies day to day. One day I took over 40 calls (there are 3 call takers), so thats about a call every 3 minutes. Other days I have taken as little as a hand ful. Depends on the weather, time of day, time of year, and just randomness of whether people feel like being criminals that day.

ATworkONre33it1 karma

Why do they got yo shit running XP?

An operator can't get a re-imaged Win.7 PC?

hatianrefugee1 karma

Our internet computer is older, and they don't wanna spend money to upgrade them all. The other 5 PC's are all Windows 7, just not the free time fun one.

IcarusCrashing1 karma

How does one get into your line of work? What kind of skills/background is required? I've always thought it would be an interesting job to do part time...

hatianrefugee3 karma

Oh it's exciting. The adrenaline flows, you can go from 0 to 100 instantly. Mainly, keep a clean background, build some communication/teamwork experience on your resume, and look for openings. Definitely a solid criminal background, stable financial background, and a history of dealing with and solving stressful problems will all increase your chances.

blargblargityblarg1 karma

Really interesting AMA! Any tips on what to teach a seven year old to say if she ever has to call 911? I have random bouts of anaphylaxis (yes, been tested for everything under the sun) and we practice what to do in case I have an emergency.

hatianrefugee1 karma

Location, location. Make sure the child knows to tell the dispatcher exactly where the person is injured or the incident is taking place. Also, make sure the child knows to tell the dispatcher if he or she is injured or if someone is injured. The difference between a non-emergency response and an upgraded response is life-threatening situations or situations that could pose risk to life or health. Make sure the child communicates if someone is hurt.

StankBreath1 karma

What made you decide to become a dispatcher? Or was it something you had to do?

hatianrefugee2 karma

Like I said, I am more interested in becoming an officer, but this city had some openings for 911 and I thought it would build my resume and give me a good change of pace for the next few years. No regrets since. Of the people I work with, most of them just kinda ended up in it, very few planned on this career.

Caveat531 karma

Why do you do what you do? Did you look for it or was it by chance? Do you get a real sense of satisfaction?

hatianrefugee3 karma

I love helping people and I love officer. I want to be an officer and this was a good transition for me while I am on the waiting list. I have amazing job satisfaction, I go home every night having made a difference in someone's life, and overall, I love what I do. I help the community, I help the officers stay safe, and its just an amazing group of people to work with.

WantedDead1 karma

How does the division of territories work? Do you dispatch for an entire county, or are you connected to a single city and the areas surrounding it?

Also, do all dispatch operators for an area work in the same facility? Is it connected to or in a police station, or is it separate from law enforcement facilities?

hatianrefugee3 karma

Every county is different. The way ours works is this:

Sheriff's Office takes out of city 911 Calls and dispatches Deputies and County Fire.

City Police takes in city 911 calls and dispatches Officer's and City Fire.

EMS takes no 911 calls. All their calls get transferred to them by either the SO or PD.

The Master Address Guide linked to the ALI machine makes the determination when you dial 911 whether to send it to City or County.

My old county when you dialed 911 anywhere in the county it goes to a call center that dispatches city fire, county fire, and EMS. If it was a police matter, they transferred you to the PD or SO depending on the location. Both ways work well and it's just preference of the county EMA really.

The SO dispatch is at the Jail and the PD dispatch is at the PD HQ Station. EMS is in their own little dispatch building.

dbelle921 karma

In England we have officers who patrol the streets on foot. I don't know if I've noticed this is America. Do they do the same?

hatianrefugee3 karma

yes, we have over patrol that does bike and foot patrol in the downtown area.

Donkey_Mario_Zelda1 karma

Have you ever listened to someone die??

hatianrefugee2 karma

No, like I said earlier, I have never had anyone die on the phone while I am talking to them. I have had one lady be stabbed while talking to me, but the intruder ran off and she lived. I have spoken to people that have later died, but not while on the phone. My coworker did have it happen to once.

MatthewBetts1 karma

I often get told not to prank call 999 (I'm from the UK), which to be honest is just common sense. But I'm wondering, even though you are from the US how often do you get prank calls? If at all...

hatianrefugee2 karma

Well, after doing this AMA a few other dispatchers said they get them often. My personal experience is that it is extremely rare. I guess it just depends on the demographics and the city. They do happen though, but it is truly a waste of the agency's time and ties up needed 999 lines, so please don't do it.

whereyatticus1 karma

How often do people call to report suspicious drug use?

hatianrefugee1 karma

Pretty steadily. Usually a couple times a day. This city has a bad drug problem in its rougher neighborhoods, but the people that live there don't like it, so we get a lot of calls about it. If it is in progress we send it out, for recurring stuff or tips we transfer to our narcotics detective on duty.

firetie1 karma

What advice could you give to someone trying to apply for your field? I had a friend try once, but didn't make the cut.

hatianrefugee3 karma

Maintain a good, stable financial history, get some team building/communications experience, get your college degree, do internships with police departments or federal agencies, and practice your listening skills.

Keep your eyes open for opportunities, be confident in your testing, and show that your well likable, east going, and can handle stress in your interview.

davis981 karma

What is the worst crime you were called about?

hatianrefugee10 karma

I am assuming by worst you mean like, most heinous. Either the woman that was stabbed while I was on the phone with her, the man with his faced crushed, or the kid who's mother had committed suicide in front of him. All of those were pretty bad for me personally.

vini_19141 karma

Here in Brazil, we have over 15K fake calls each year, if caught, the guy will get 6 months tops in jail, how can this change? Tougher legislation? How does it works where you live?

hatianrefugee6 karma

For any type of call we send the approriate response levels, so if the prank call is severe enough (such as an armed robbery prank) then it will be punished to the severest extent. Honestly, I think the fact the Americans dont really know what happens when you prank 911 helps prevent people from doing it. It is pure officer discretion on prank/false calls.

Jayoak1 karma

Have you ever had to put anyone on hold?

hatianrefugee2 karma

Yes, we only have so many call takers and there have been time where everyone is on a call. In that instance, a dispatcher would start call taking as well. When I put people on hold, i only do it after I get the location and nature, then Ill put them on hold, get the location and nature of what is ringing, then put them on hold and go back to the first call.

it_turns_out1 karma

How much work do you actually do in a day (ie: how much is downtime)?

hatianrefugee4 karma

We use the following rotation on my shift.

2 - 4 hours call taking 2 - 4 hours police dispatch 2 hours fire dispatch

We just kind of mingle throughout and rotate when we want to. A shift has a very strict rotation policy, but B Shift just kinda does whatever with regards to rotation.

As for time spent working: On an 8.5 hour shift (15 minute shift overlap from shift to shift), we get a 30 minute lunch break and 30 minutes of flex time. The flex time is just 30 minutes you can take whenever and you can break it up into 5 minute increments or use it as a 30 minute chunk, your call. There is some restrictions (like no less than 4 dispatchers total, so if your down to 4 you must wait for someone to return). My shift has 6 to 7 per shift. When you're at your console on a slow day (like today) you can reddit or whatever, doesn't really matter. Busier days you are pretty constantly working. Each day is different. I have taken as little as 3 911 per shift and as many as 46.

it_turns_out2 karma

Thank you.

That's much more work than I expected in a town of 100,000. If my math is correct, people call 911 almost once a year. That's ridiculously often. I bet you 5% of people make 95% of calls.

Edit: never thought to google it. Sounds like about 200 million 911 calls are made in USA per year. So yeah, people call 911 almost once a year.

hatianrefugee3 karma

Yeah we area university town and we have several bad neighborhoods so, it keeps us busier. Fortunately, I am off Tuesday Thurs., and the weekends are usually slower.

it_turns_out2 karma

and the weekends are usually slower

!? Really?

Friday/Saturday nights are not the busiest for 911??

hatianrefugee3 karma

Friday night is usually steady, but B Shift Sat/Sun is the slowest time. C Shift is the busiest Thu/Fri/Sat. The highest call volume day is overwhelmingly thursday nights with Fri and Wed neck and neck for second.

People get stressed during the week and tend to do stupid stuff. On the weekends, people tend to chill out and enjoy themselves more. Before the job, I assumed monday to thurs werent busy at all, but tues to fri is the busiest group of days.

hatianrefugee2 karma

Yeah, that's about right. Most of your citizens account for hardly any of your call volume. It's those 10 to 15% you owe your job to.

TheDood7151 karma

How did you get into your field of work? I have been a dispatcher for 6 years now and i'm simply curious to hear it from you although I have googled the subject many times.

hatianrefugee6 karma

I got into it by pure chance really. I have wanted to be an officer for many years now, and I was in school waiting for metro police to open applications, but a nearby city opened up 911 operator positions, so I figured why not do that while I wait for an officer positions, and I must say, I have loved it.

TheHappyKomondor0 karma

Is seeing a dog get hit by a car considered an emergency? I saw a dog get run over once (not by me) while i was driving and the only thing I could think was that I needed to call 911 but I was freaking out so bad that I couldn't remember what street/intersection it happened on or what direction I was going. I ended up not making the call & I've been wondering ever since if anything would have happened if I had.

hatianrefugee1 karma

Ummm, never had that happen, but I suppose if it was stressful and you did it out of pure reaction, then I wouldn't be upset. All I could do was send animal control out honestly, maybe an officer that is an animal lover :)

eganic0 karma

Yo I called one of you the other day, it was scary. It was to report some loud screaming bitch and her boyfriend in the next apartment over, but we had weed so we wanted it to just be an "anonymous tip" so we didn't get arrested. Is it cool to make anonymous tips? When I went and saw The Call and at the beginning it had like example phone calls to get the audience familiarized with the setup, and some of them seemed like casual and comical

How accurate was The Call?

hatianrefugee1 karma

Never seen The Call, Ill have to go watch it. Yes, anonymous tips are cool. You can give the dispatcher your info and it will be logged as anonymous and no given out, or when the dispatcher asks your info you can refuse and they will just say "ok". All anonymous tips truly are kept anonymous.

Hosni__Mubarak0 karma

Oh my god! There is someone in my house! Downstairs! I am at 143 (call dropped)...

hatianrefugee3 karma

During training they played a tape of something very similar. She died from gunshot wounds. With the ANI/ALI it's less common, but sometimes it's down, incorrect, or it's a VoIP call with misinformation. Location is the most important.