Hey Reddit! I'm a 911 dispatcher here to welcome your questions, provide insight, and hopefully gain a little visibility for a profession that usually only enters the public eye when we screw up!

I work in a PSAP (Public Safety Access/Answering Point) meaning that we dispatch for every agency in my county, which includes Fire, EMS, Law Enforcement, and other agencies. My center specifically handles calls and radio dispatch for the County Sheriff, local Police, 10 separate Fire Departments, the Forestry Service, EMS, the local Rescue Squad/independant first responders, State Parks, and Animal Control!

Ask away!


Thank you, everyone, for your support, your time, and your questions! I have to sign off for a bit, but I promise I will return and try to answer everything that's been asked!

Call us if you need us!

**********EDIT #2*********************************************

Here are answers to some common questions!

1) When should I call 911?

Any time you believe yourself or someone else to be in danger, or if you are in a situation that you cannot handle on your own, please do not hesitate to call! We would always rather you call and we send someone out and it end up being a non-emergency, than you hesitate and something bad happen. Call!

2) How do I get a job as a dispatcher?

Our center does not require any kind of degree beyond a high school diploma. I personally just found a job posting on my County's website and applied! The next step is a skills/aptitude test which will test your typing speed (at least 35 words/minute), your reading comprehension, listening skills, and your ability to multitask. If you pass this, then you usually will have a panel interview with several people from the dispatch center, which is honestly just about like every other interview I've ever had. The questions are fairly generic, they're mainly looking for clear communication, and a background in customer service is a plus since that's essentially what you're doing, serving the public. After you get hired, you'll be trained very thoroughly, certified in every area the center requires, and then start your probationary period (mine was six months).

3) Can you trace a call?

Yes and no, essentially. Landline calls will usually give us a reliable physical address. Cell Phone calls will usually give us a GPS location on our map that's accurate within about 30 yards. VOIP calls function mostly like landline calls on our end, but have less accuracy on average. That said, all of these can and do fail from time to time, so it is always best to tell us your location!

4) What's the most important information to tell 911 when I call?

Location! Location!! LOCATION!!!!

If we know nothing else, your location will let us send help and we can go from there! Yes, we would love to know what is going on in the situation, but as soon as we get your location we can start sending help, so please tell us that first, and then while someone else is dispatching responders, the call taker will try to get the rest of that information and let the units know as we go

5) What happens if someone calls and hangs up, or says nothing, or is unable to speak to the dispatcher due to the situation/a dangerous person in the room?

Every center has different policies about this. For a call where someone calls and just immediately hangs up, my center will still send an officer to check it out because we have the time and resources to do so. Other centers will not send anyone if they don't hear signs of distress. For a call where the call is connected but you don't say anything (called an "open line"), we will listen as long as we can and try to hear voices or noises that could tell us what's going on, then act accordingly. Do we hear yelling or arguing? Gun shots? A car radio playing like you butt-dialed in the car? For callers who have called and cannot answer questions because there is someone dangerous nearby We will try to get you to somehow answer yes or no questions if possible, but if you are in that situation and cannot say anything, try and set the phone down discreetly and just let us listen to what's going on. We may be able to hear enough to know what's going on, but if no sounds of distress are heard, then again it's up to the center's policy as to whether an officer is sent or not. I wish that every center could send an officer to every open line/hang up call that comes in, but it just isn't feasible even though we will try our best to figure out what is going on.

*********************EDIT#3********************************************* Gold and front page! Thank you all so SO much for your awesome questions and for your support! I promise I'm still trying to answer all the questions I can! Have a safe and fun New Year's Eve!

Comments: 5477 • Responses: 108  • Date: 

HeliosRises8514 karma

EMT here:

How do you know exactly when I am ready to dig into my meal or take off my boots? Are there cameras in our station so you know the worst possible moments to tone us out? Do my sacrifices to the dispatch gods get seen, or should I just stop doing them all together?

In all seriousness, we love our dispatchers (most of them anyway) and really appreciate hearing 'stay safe' from time to time.

EDIT: Huh, this blew up. Thank you for the gold and kind words below. From the EMS community to you, PLEASE STAY SAFE THIS NEW YEARS! If you think about it and have the ability to do so, send a thank-you note to your local EMS station during this busy time of year. It'll mean more than you probably ever know.

CountyDispatcher6043 karma

We usually try to hold all pages until lunch time, dinner time, and the middle of the night, so it's good to hear we're being effective :)

Thank you, truthfully, for what you do :) The gods are pleased

RangersCrusader3606 karma

If I'm being pulled over by a civilian vehicle with a siren light on the roof like a detectives car in tv shows should I call 911 before pulling over? I'd be concerned that it was someone trying to rob me with a $10 light off eBay. What should one do in this situation to confirm the "officer" is legit?

CountyDispatcher4731 karma

If you feel the other car may not be an actual cop, absolutely please call in. All our units advise us immediately that they are doing a traffic stop, for everyone's safety.

three_3s_threeing3551 karma

Do you ever accidentally slip into dispatcher mode when you're on a regular ol' personal call?

CountyDispatcher4300 karma

Ha.. yeah, I do. Especially if I have to spell something over the phone, the phonetic alphabet comes right out

Blinkskij1428 karma

What's your reaction/thoughts on callers who use phonetic alphabet?
Does it happen often or is it rare?

CountyDispatcher1941 karma

It does happen, but they usually use the Military version because that's what ends up in movies and stuff, so sometimes it throws us off for a second

electricsandstorm509 karma

Which phonetic alphabet do you guys use?

CountyDispatcher1387 karma

We call it the "Law Enforcement Phonetic Alphabet"

Adam, Boy, Charles, David, Edward, Frank, George, Henry...

instead of the Military version or the Greek Alphabet

xfitsally2724 karma

I called 911 when I spotted a butt naked man walking down the street at midnight. It was hard for me to not laugh as I called 911. The poor dispatcher seemed confused, asked me to repeat myself several times then, I swear I heard, a little chuckle. What is the funniest call you have received? (The situation ended up being pretty serious. The guy had some sort of nervous breakdown and was convinced God had told him to commit suicide by walking himself to death. He was also my neighbor who lived across the street but I didn't know it at the time.)

CountyDispatcher5347 karma

Oh geez, yeah that's not funny at all in the end!

I mentioned in another comment that a caller called 911 to say two "crackwhores" had stolen his wallet and not had sex with him after he solicited them, so he got ripped off and robbed.

We asked their names. His answer?

Crackwhore 1 and Crackwhore 2.


TwoRocksAndaDuck2407 karma

How hard is it to understand people in a real state of panic? Do you have a standard procedure?

CountyDispatcher2644 karma

Great question!

So statistically, only a small percentage of callers are found to be "too distraught" for us to get any info, meaning we should almost never be unable to get anything unless someone just hangs up/loses connection.

With that said, sometimes it is really hard! With background noise and crappy cell reception it's hard enough.. but add in panic and we have to ask people to repeat things all the time, unfortunately. We do have a protocol we have to follow to maintain our certifications, and it always starts with us confirming the address, phone number, and name. That way, if nothing else we know where to send units and can get info while they're on the way to reduce response time

MilesGates841 karma

Imagine triangulating a cellphone signal is not as easy and quick as I imagine it to be.

CountyDispatcher1429 karma

We literally just have a button to "re-bid" the call, meaning try again to get a location, but beyond that there's nothing we can do from our chairs

RyoxSinfar466 karma

Does it fail that often?

CountyDispatcher816 karma

No, maybe 1 in 50 calls, if that often

2_minutes_in_the_box50 karma

Way different from my center. We take the cell calls for the state and a good percentage of our callers are absolutely hysterical or too drunk/high to be intelligible.

CountyDispatcher56 karma

I think our initial training lists the percentage of impossible callers at around 3-5% as a national average, but it definitely does happen :\

TK_Bluh5 karma

Are you able to offer a phone number to whatsapp or text instead? For those super noisy environments or areas with bad connection I imagine it would be really helpful

CountyDispatcher9 karma

Sadly, not. You can try testing out the text thing in your area by just texting 911, but there aren't any special numbers set up yet as far as I know

dumbasses4lyfe2285 karma

What's the craziest call you've ever gotten? What's the dumbest call you've ever gotten?

CountyDispatcher5163 karma

"Her vagina done fell out" ranks as one of the strangest complaints we've gotten....

I had a call a few months back from a woman saying her neighbor's house was in flames. Turns out it was the sunset reflecting off the windows. (PSA please always call if you think there's a fire, we just might laugh a bit later if it's something like this)

killingALLTHETIME1922 karma

Can you give us more on the vagina falling out?

CountyDispatcher5169 karma

My understanding is it ended up being some kind of prolapse situation with a middle aged woman. I have no idea what caused it, but both the caller and we in the center were very confused by it.

" fell out? "

" It done fell out."

fourfrenchfries2160 karma

My five-year-old brother called 911 once because he saw a stray cat and he thought it looked hungry (he was sobbing on the phone hahaha). An officer came out and had a chat with him about when we call 911 about a real emergency and when we can just try to help stray kitties. It was sweet.

Anyway, what's your favorite (not sad!) little kid calling 911 story?

CountyDispatcher1971 karma

Usually the only cute ones we get are toddlers going "goo goo gaa" into the phone that they mashed buttons on, then their mother/parent saying "Hey, don't call them!" and hanging up

Switchitis1489 karma

Do you get annoyed at people calling about petty things? like dogs off the leash or personal disputes?

CountyDispatcher2172 karma


We get a little annoyed, we joke about it, we make sarcastic comments after we hang up with the caller... but we still advise our units of every single one! We take your life and safety seriously, even if you're being a little silly or petty :)

OnNom1013 karma

I called 911 once because there was a fuck-ton of smashed glass on the highway that everyone was going slowly around (I think it fell off a trailer or something). Was that something I should have done?

CountyDispatcher1375 karma

Sure! In my area, we would send the fire department to go clean it up so it doesn't cause an accident

steever231412 karma

My sister was being attacked by her boyfriend and called 911 and he hung up the cell phone. The dispatcher called back and spoke with the boyfriend and told her it was fine, she believed him because he said he was a paramedic and hung up and no help was sent. Is that normal to take ones word for it when there is a person yelling for help in the background or did the dispatcher drop the ball? How much of your job is based on judgement vs. protocol?

CountyDispatcher2182 karma

No no no no! Bad dispatcher!

If someone says they're being attacked, the proper response is to send law enforcement and EMS and let them sort it out. We as dispatchers should never, ever make decisions like that.

The only time we don't send EMS is if the victim declines it. If someone says they were being attacked, there's no way in hell we would cancel law enforcement. Even if the victim is just making it up to get someone in trouble, that's not our judgement call to make, that's for the officer/deputy who responds.

I'm genuinely, earnestly sorry that was handled so poorly, and I really hope your sister is okay and in a better situation.

strictlymovies1277 karma

Is it difficult for you to detach emotionally once you know there's nothing more you personally (or anyone if that's the case) can do for the caller?

CountyDispatcher2039 karma

It is easier for me then some of my peers for whatever reason. I just don't get very emotionally invested unless it's someone I know or care about. I know it sounds very heartless, but I'd argue it makes me better suited because even seasoned veterans in this job can get a horrible call and freeze up... and that's when things go really wrong

jdscarface605 karma

How many times would you get a call concerning someone you know or care about? I can't imagine that happens very regularly.

CountyDispatcher881 karma

Thankfully not! It hasn't happened to me yet (fingers crossed) but I have gotten calls about people I am familiar with or acquaintances

ShelleyTambo637 karma

My brother is a dispatcher. They got the call when one of their coworkers committed suicide.

Edit: This answer was the only reason I'm confident you're not my brother (handwriting is really similar).

CountyDispatcher526 karma

Man, that is really rough, my condolences to him and his team. We are very close here, that would be devastating

carnivorousdrew1248 karma

Two questions:
- What is the weirdest non-emergency you ever answered to?
- Ever happened that someone asked for food or groceries because they were literally starving? I once read this article and wondered how frequently something like this happens

CountyDispatcher1547 karma

Weirdest thing: one lady said she saw a puma with a bald head cross the road... Surprisingly, responders could not locate it.

I've never had someone actually say they were starving, but we do have social services resources for both adults and children if something like that were reported to us

brandnewaccounting1170 karma

I saw on a tv show this guy was getting home invaded, and he called 911 and tapped SOS in morse code into the phone to avoid making any sound

Does this happen? And if it were to happen would you be able to follow thru?

CountyDispatcher1758 karma

If we get a call and nobody says anything, we are going to send law enforcement regardless of anything else. It may just be a hang up, it may not.

I personally would probably recognize the S-O-S pattern, but we aren't trained in Morse code or anything, it would just be from seeing it in movies

where_is_the_cheese698 karma

Is there something someone could do to very quietly notify you they're in trouble other than just a hang up?

CountyDispatcher1379 karma

It would be hard to recommend something that would be reliably effective. We've had people pull the ol' "ordering a pizza" thing to disguise they were really calling 911. I once had a guy just groan into the phone who was having a stroke.

If you call, we will do our best to get help to you even if we have no information except a cell phone GPS plot

Shit_Negro550 karma

If you have to do the pizza order thing, how can you discreetly inform the dispatcher it's not actually a mis-dialed pizza order?

CountyDispatcher752 karma

Haha, I imagine it may be difficult, and I can't guarantee the pizza thing will always work. Someone might just say "Sorry, this is 911 not Domino's" and hang up, but if that's all you can do, it is worth a try to save yourself

dugant195466 karma

Don't they talk about that in training at all? I feel like that is a pretty well known ruse that you would at least be told to ask if they are aware they are calling 911 before hanging up.

CountyDispatcher750 karma

They talked about it a little, as far as "this might happen, don't just hang up immediately" but there's no real way to write a protocol for handling calls like that unfortunately. Like we can't have "pepperoni pizza" mean "guy with a gun", you know?

jarjarbrooks1353 karma

Seems to me like a few simple yes-no questions can put it to bed.

  • Caller: Hi, I'd like an extra-large pepperoni!
  • Dispatch: This is 911, is that who you intended to call?
  • Caller: Yes
  • Dispatch: Do you need an officer?
  • Caller: Yes
  • Dispatch: What's your address?

From the callers side, that's a perfectly normal pizza call, and the cashier asked him if he wanted napkins and parmesan, and then the delivery address, but you've collected all of the information you needed.

CountyDispatcher829 karma

It seems straightforward, but add a man in the room with a gun to the caller's head and things get complicated, stressful, and panicked. You just can't standardize the "pizza place" approach enough for it to be trained out to everyone

vcsx963 karma

Last time I called 911 was two years ago when I found that my roommate had hanged himself. Police were at my door in under 2 minutes.

What is the step by step process that goes into a call like that? All I remember is they asked me, "Can you confirm he's dead?" At which point I started screaming and crying. Then someone was at my door.

CountyDispatcher948 karma

We will send EMS and Law Enforcement and probably first responders no matter what you say in that situation, and they will come as fast as possible unless you tell us certain things (like his head is off, he is already decomposing, etc) that we call "unequivocal death" meaning there is no doubt he is deceased.

HarmlessKitten957 karma

Have you ever had anyone call you up to admit to a crime and summon the police?

CountyDispatcher1405 karma

We do get people wanting to turn themselves in for outstanding warrants. I did have a guy report that two "crackwhores" had stolen his wallet after he solicited them... genius

HarmlessKitten326 karma

Interesting. Are you able to share what those people turned themselves in for and why? Or is it confidential?

And another question: Let's say I broke into a building and its alarm system goes off. Does it call a security company that then call you?

CountyDispatcher454 karma

It varies, I think the last one was for receiving stolen goods if I remember.

Yep! It triggers the alarm company who then call us and then we dispatch

vortish858 karma

What is the worst call that you have ever faced?

CountyDispatcher2338 karma

Last winter, I took a call from a guy who says he was going to shoot himself, and then he did it while I listened. The silence after that gun shot was... heavy

vortish551 karma

i am sorry for having to listen to that! did they take you off work and give you counseling for it?

CountyDispatcher991 karma

They always offer counseling after major incidents, and it's an available resource any time we want it. I didn't take it after that call

Juan_Cocktoasten797 karma

I'm curious to get your opinion about a 911 call I made for something that I felt was an emergency: I was driving about 25 MPH towards a bridge that led to the freeway. As I merged into the left hand lane a bee flew into my truck and I swerved, almost hitting the car next to me and then came close to rear-ending the car in front of me.

After I stopped and rolled up my window I noticed a sign next to me on the median that was covered with a huge swarm of bees. There were hundreds of bees in the air and it was the kind of day where a lot of people had their car windows open. I felt it was a dangerous situation that was sure to cause an accident or worse, that the bees might sting someone who's allergic.

So I called 911 to report this road hazard and I was curtly told that 911 was for emergencies only and then they hung up on me. I was stunned because those bees needed to be removed ASAP. So who should I have called if not 911?

CountyDispatcher876 karma

I would have called 911 in that situation too! I think if I got that call, I'd end up having to send Wildlife Enforcement because Animal Control really only does domestic animals like dogs and cats and farm animals. Yeah, that could cause wrecks though!

67chevroletimpala792 karma

What happens if the caller doesn't speak English? How many languages are supported by the 911 dispatchers?

CountyDispatcher1241 karma

We use a translator service, like as a 3-way call, to speak with non-English speaking callers

Some dispatch centers will let you speak another language with callers, some won't, it's an issue of liability. If you "know" Spanish and mess something up, it's on you. If you use the translator service, it isn't your fault if there's a mistranslation

67chevroletimpala377 karma

Cool. Have you personally had non-english callers?

CountyDispatcher758 karma

It happens a few times a month at least. I had 10 years of Spanish growing up and speak decently, but I still get the interpreter on the line

Ryltarr760 karma

When there's a fire/accident/crime on/near a major road do you receive several dozen calls for it? How do you handle that, as in do you tell them that there are units responding and try to free up the line as quickly as possible or do you continue to ask them for information?

CountyDispatcher1039 karma

Oh yes. Ohhhhh yes.

And yep, we tell them "we have received reports, units are enroute" and document the call. Unless the original caller gave very little info and the new caller says they are on scene at the accident or were involved or something and we can get more info from them

Ezzmode703 karma

First: I called 9-1-1 when I was a kid, I can't remember why. It was me being dumb and wanted to see if I could hang up right after dialing and not get caught. I got caught (obviously). I've always felt guilty about that.

Second: I called 9-1-1 only 1 other time and that was because I suspected (correctly) my mother was being physically abused by her boyfriend. This was 7 years ago. I was spurred into action when I heard her in the other room say "Stop it, you're hurting me! Let me GO!" I straight up bolted out of the house and called on the land line. To me it sounded like the dispatcher was trying to not send a unit out and asked multiple times "did you only hear it, or actually see the abuse?" Is there some kind of rule regarding suspicion of domestic abuse? Also, the next thing that happened was she said that she would forward our report to the sheriffs office, then she hung up. about 10 minutes later I got a call from the sheriff and he showed up. Was it incorrect for her to get off the line in a situation like that? Thanks for all your hard work!

CountyDispatcher994 karma

First, I'm sorry that happened and I hope she is in a better situation

Second, it sounds like that dispatcher was not doing their job correctly. Could have been a lack of training, or they were just disgruntled, etc. Either way, no, we are trained to take every call seriously and at face value. You say you're being attacked, we tell the police you're being attacked, it isn't our call to decide differently.

diegojones4623 karma

How do you decide when you should stay on the call instead of just take the call and dispatch and then disconnect?

CountyDispatcher876 karma

It's kind of a hard thing to put into words, sometimes you just get a feeling like "hey, those background noises are weird" or " this caller's voice sounds scared even though she says she's fine".

Other times, the caller themselves asks you to stay on, especially with some bad medical calls

buckyisunlucky460 karma

Every time I've called 911, the operator stayed on the phone until the police arrived

CountyDispatcher528 karma

It may be their policy to do so, it may be that they were slow enough, it may just be that they felt it was necessary

djheadshot618 karma

What happened to that whole being charged for calling 911 thing?

CountyDispatcher856 karma

People still get charged, it just requires a pattern of behavior and calling for no reason at all/ every little thing.

RedwSmoke614 karma


CountyDispatcher669 karma

Please call if you need to test the system! For landlines, we are supposed to get an accurate, automatic location, but it's technology and things do go wrong

CanOwhoopass598 karma

How do I report a dispatcher? There was an Uber driver outside my house that wouldn'y leave after I accidentally mentioned I would be home alone for a few days. He was banging on the windows and trying to find a way in. When I called the dispatcher it was this very unpleasant and unprofessional woman who kept asking if I had ordered the Uber driver. Ultimately I ended up flashing my airsoft gun in the dark with my hand over the orange tip, so it looked like a real MP5k to scare him away. When I told the dispatcher he left she threatened to have me fined and charged for prank calling 911.

CountyDispatcher793 karma

Call back and ask for their shift supervisor to file a report. If that doesn't work, speak with the county manager!

Lak3Tah03541 karma

Is 911 the best number to call for non-emergency traffic situations?

For instance, after a windy night, when a tree branch is blocking a traffic intersection? I'm sure there is a city service for this, but if i notice while i'm driving i may not have those phone numbers handy.

CountyDispatcher512 karma

You can call State Highway Patrol or go ahead and call 911 and we can transfer you or advise them ourselves

BunPuncherExtreme510 karma

How much do you want to punch your coworker when they suggest it might be a quiet shift?

CountyDispatcher815 karma

Don't you jinx me, you bastard!

ServerMechanic505 karma

Is it ever OK to call 911 from your cell phone to make sure you are routed to the proper call center? I remember people being concerned about this early on but I don't know if it is still a problem.

CountyDispatcher633 karma

Absolutely! Just please stay on the line and tell us why you called. Not every call center does this, but we send law enforcement to every 911 hang up, and your call comes through immediately after you hit send, so don't hang up, it wastes time :)

demize95128 karma

When I accidentally hung up on 911 they just called me back and had me report the accident I just saw all over again. You'd think the CAD would be able to say "this person just called and spent so long on the line with this dispatcher" but I guess it just sticks everyone in a queue and has someone call them back.

Not that I mind the diligence, it's good to know their standard procedure is actually to verify that the call I said happened did happen.

CountyDispatcher123 karma

We will tell the responding officer "Joe Smith just called back and said it was a misdial/pocket dial" and it's then the officer's discretion to continue responding or not

ServerMechanic-6 karma

Cool. Thanks. I'm going to do it when I get home just so I know that if I ever need to call from home that I don't get sent somewhere incorrect.

CountyDispatcher10 karma

We always tell people that if you have an emergency and call 911, the first thing you should say is the location where you are.

Land line calls have a (usually) reliable address automatically associated with them. Cell phones (usually) give us a GPS plot within about 30 yards, but nothing is as valuable as the caller confirming the location.

buffetregret21 karma

I've made multiple 911 calls in the past 18 months. Not once did I state my location first, yet every time I think about how one should handle emergencies I tell myself to start with location in case the call gets cut off.

CountyDispatcher2 karma

Always start with the location for that very reason! I hope you're doing okay

buffetregret21 karma

Thanks, I'm good! Just the combination of being hyper-observant in public and living on a high traffic street edit* where many accidents take place. I feel a bit like the "cry-wolf" type on the non-accident ones but my instincts and observations were right each time.

CountyDispatcher1 karma

We'd rather you call and it be nothing, than it be something bad and you not call, so keep calling if you feel the need! :)

thatonetallguy621426 karma

How stressful is your job?

CountyDispatcher671 karma

It can be pretty stressful sometimes, but where I work that tends to come in spurts. There will be periods where it's slow and we get a few calls in ten minutes maybe... then the next moment we have thirty units headed out on six calls all at once and things are just crazy.

The hardest part sometimes it's just having the 12 hour shifts and just being seated and indoors for that long, but people do burn out and get secondary PTSD from what we have to deal with :/

not_who_you_thinkiam238 karma

12 hour shifts? Do you do that regularly or just sometimes?

CountyDispatcher420 karma

It's a rotating schedule, so like two days I work, then I'm off two, but always 12 hour shifts (mine is 6am to 6pm)

Asaleth401 karma

Do you usually trace the callers location without explicit permission? I imagine it could save lives in case of kidnapping/hostage situations

CountyDispatcher421 karma

We can have a cell traced but there is a process and it has to be done at the request of law enforcement under very specific circumstances

PsychoCitizenX350 karma

In the day and age of cell phones I imagine many people do not know the address of where they currently are located. With a landline it could be easily traced to an address. How do you track a cell phone to a specific address?

CountyDispatcher460 karma

It shows up as a little dot on our map and we look at the closest valid address and hope for the best

doorbellguy347 karma

When were you the most panicked on job and why?

CountyDispatcher894 karma

The last time I felt panicked, I was listening to a woman scream "god please let him start breathing"

If she had instead came back to the phone I could've talked her through CPR and maybe saved that guy

guaranic55 karma

What level emergency medical knowledge do you have/that you could talk someone through?

CountyDispatcher165 karma

I can talk you through CPR, delivering a baby, controlling bleeding, and some other various basic things, but we are not EMT's and neither are you and that is taken into account

doorbellguy20 karma

Did it end well? Follow up please..

CountyDispatcher42 karma

I don't believe he survived :(

Magnum_PI319 karma

When calling 911 as an adult, what are the most important pieces of information that you, as the dispatcher, need and what is the preferred order? Does any of that change for teaching children? For example, if I was talking to a child about calling 911, what should points should I stress?

CountyDispatcher519 karma

Location, first and foremost.

Then your phone # in case we get disconnected.

Then what is going on/what's the emergency

I know it seems like we should ask the emergency first, but if we get "he's on fire" and no location, then we can't send help, but if we get a location and nothing else, we can still send responders.

cepxico318 karma

I can't believe I haven't seen anyone ask this but what is the pay like?

CountyDispatcher399 karma

MOst areas you probably start around $30k-$35k, but for big metro areas, I'd be surprised if it wasn't closer to $40k starting out

DizzyWeed246 karma

Ive always wondered if it is okay to call 911 to confirm an unmarked car pulling you over as an actual police person on duty. Is this allowed? I see so many unmarkes cars now that it could really be anybody posing as a police official.

CountyDispatcher426 karma


As I told another caller, all our law enforcement units tell us as soon as they stop a car, and give a location, for everyone's safety. So if it's a legit car, we know about it and will confirm with you

Atomicapples880 karma

I think it's funny how you refered to a redditer as "another caller" instead of another "commenter" 😂

CountyDispatcher648 karma

Ha! Good catch! Dispatcher brain...

airpolly221 karma

So sometimes kids call 911 for funny reasons simply because they don't know any better or they perceive something to be more of a problem than it actually is (for example, "I need help finishing homework." Have you ever had calls like this and if so how frequently?

CountyDispatcher960 karma

Haha, sometimes we get kids who "prank call" and call us names or swear at us (I had a kid say "crap you, you bastard" then hang up)

We send law enforcement :)

jowrdy209 karma

First off, good job for doing what you do and secondly I'm Dutch and not American so things most likely will be a bit different here. Do dispatchers ever try to keep you occupied if you call? Two years ago our chicken barn was on fire and I called the Dutch version of 911. I got the feeling they tried to keep me on the line just to prevent me from doing (possibly stupid or dangerous) anything.

Is that a thing that gets done or is there a big chance I imagined that?

CountyDispatcher211 karma

If the dispatcher thinks the caller is in danger by staying on the line, they should tell them to put the phone down and leave the area if possible and get to a safe place.

If there is more information to be gained, or you might hurt yourself/commit suicide, we will try to keep you on as long as possible to help you until responders can find you

Pasty_Swag193 karma

Something I've always wondered: can you get an address/gps location without having to speak to the caller? For example, say I call 911 on my cell phone and just put it in my pocket without saying a word; can you find me?

CountyDispatcher238 karma

If it comes from a landline, we get a location that is reliable in most cases

If it comes from a cellphone though, we might get a location within 30 yards...or we might never get an automatic GPS location (called a "phase 2" plot) which means we have no idea where to send them

_zoomies192 karma

How long have you dispatched? How often do people call by accident? What call turned out to be the most rewarding?

CountyDispatcher417 karma

I've been with this agency for a few years now, almost five in total in the job.

Accidental hang up calls are and will always be our most common call, haha

Any time we guide someone through giving CPR and the patient survives is extremely intense and extremely rewarding because we literally just saved a life

Mr_Player35169 karma

What types of situations should we not call 911 for? Do you get annoyed when me call in with non emergencies? How do you handle those calls?

CountyDispatcher361 karma

If you are in a situation that you need help and don't know who to call, feel free to call!

We'd rather you call and bother us than have it end badly because you did not call

stresstwig160 karma

What's your favorite call you've had? Weird, I know, but something you know had a good resolution that you helped achieve, I suppose, might be the best way to interpret that.

CountyDispatcher458 karma

I gave CPR instructions for a 3 month old girl who made it to the hospital because of it, that felt really good


Am I supposed to call 911 if I suspect someone of drunken driving? Is that considered enough of an emergency?

CountyDispatcher224 karma

Please do! Drunk drivers kill way too many people every year

Mackinstyle108 karma

If I call in and once you answer I blurt out something like, "A minivan just ran off highway, rolled down hill, Highway X, mile marker Y, send help!" and immediately hung up or stuffed my phone in my pocket so that I could run and help, would that have been helpful or useless? Would I be better off standing there talking to you? Do you have everything I said on recording to go back and re-listen if I blurted too fast? Do you often replay recordings as part of a dispatch effort?

CountyDispatcher127 karma

With the highway and mile marker we would send fire and ems immediately, and hopefully they would find the accident!

We can go back and re-listen, and we hope you are correct when you give us that info! Sometimes people say one location and really they are a few miles past it, it's just the last thing they saw

opie9595 karma

Have you ever taken a call from someone you know and how did it affect you having to listen to someone you know asking for help? Also did they recognize your voice or did you tell them it was you? Did they calm down if you did?

CountyDispatcher131 karma

Thank the gods I have not yet had a call from someone I care about, but other people in the center have and it's horrible for everyone...

knotquiteawake71 karma

Having worked in a college campus dispatch center I kind of have a feel for what information you guys typically need. So when I call 911 I tend to word vomit "I am traveling on highway 190 west just past the firewheel exit and there is a tan Ford focus license plate alpha bravo charlie one two three that keeps departing it's lane I think they are driving g under the influence"... I do this thinking it will save time but they always reask all the questions anyways. It's really frustrating when I've just given all the information you need to get somebody dispatched and then have to spend two minutes playing 20 questions again

What is the fastest way to communicate this information?Should I not "volunteer" information? Sometimes I only get a glance at the license plate and I NEED to communicate it before I forget it.

CountyDispatcher95 karma

I always recommend starting with just the location, so we know who to send where, but if there is important information that you might forget, go head and say it we do have all calls recorded and we can play it back if we miss something.

Sometimes questions are re-asked for clarification, or because we have to get a specific answer for our protocol

undergrounddirt62 karma

Say I call in and can't speak for some reason: choking, held captive, etc

What should I do?

CountyDispatcher84 karma

Try to keep the line open as long as possible and make whatever noise you can manage to let us know you're there.

ImpoverishedYorick57 karma

Have you ever had to call 911 yourself? Do you have specific numbers that you'd prefer to call under the circumstances?

CountyDispatcher84 karma

I'll always dial 911 in the US. The way the service is set up now, it's national and available everywhere. 10 years ago, that wasn't the case, but it is leaps and bounds better now and always improving

Ikanaide201657 karma

If I killed myself at home and called 911 beforehand saying I was about to, would my parents still have to identify my body?

CountyDispatcher199 karma

I'm honestly not sure, but they may. The medical examiner and responding law enforcement may make that determination.

With that said, please if you ever feel that urge, call for help. Call 911, call your local suicide hotline, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

heyyouknowmeto54 karma

Are you supposed to stay on the line with the caller till help arrives?

CountyDispatcher65 karma

If we feel the situation is changing quickly and it won't put the caller in danger to stay on, then we can make the call to, otherwise we usually stay on if they ask us to

heyyouknowmeto49 karma

I know a guy that was shot and called 911 the dispatcher asked him if he heard sirens and said we will be there shortly before hanging up on him.

CountyDispatcher89 karma absolutely wrong. Sirens can be heard for blocks if not miles away in some situations.

cjan3426 karma

How did you get into this line of work? And do you feel that it is a job?

CountyDispatcher51 karma

I was unemployed and searching for jobs, stumbled across my county job posting and applied. After the interviews there is a TON of training and certification classes since our center is accredited, but as far as how I found the job I just kind of happened across it.

I'm not sure this is what I want to do for the rest of my life (I'm approaching 30), but I genuinely enjoy it and it has a great sense of satisfaction in helping people.

AGiantPope9 karma

What's the deal with cellphones? The first time I had to call 911 because a work buddy cut his wrist working on the brakes of his car and when I called from my cellphone(this was between 5-10 years ago) and got some automated message which I couldn't understand at all. I think it was a sheriff? Anywho I then called from a landline and everything was hunky dory.

The next time I had to call( some years later) it went right through. Do you have any insight on this?

CountyDispatcher12 karma

Years back, 911 wasn't what it is today. Even 15 years ago, you might call a separate number to get the fire department or EMS, now it's all just 911. In the early days of cell phones, there was also a lot of issues with the system not knowing where to route the call due to how the network identified your location from the towers

AngryCod4 karma

I heard from a reliable source that the real number to call is 912. Any truth to that?

CountyDispatcher9 karma

Only on weekdays and every other weekend.

(JK, call 911)

supersounds_3 karma

How many calls do you get from people testing if their 911 works, like if they just switched to a VOIP company and want to see if the endpoint updated correctly for their address?

CountyDispatcher4 karma

Not that many, for better or worse. I think most people just expect it to work and thankfully it does more often than not

Merriweather1013 karma

Is there one big 911 headquarters? Or a bunch of 911 dispatches across America?

CountyDispatcher7 karma

A TON of dispatch centers! We have one in our county, one in a city in our county for their own little police department. Some areas like NYC I imagine have many, many call centers just because of population density

j10work23 karma

Is stating your address first thing when you guys pick up an actual good tip, even if you're asking about the nature of our emergency?

CountyDispatcher6 karma

Any center that has the same (national) accreditation we do will start with "What's the address of your emergency?"

brandnewaccounting3 karma

May be stupid question... But is it possible to make a 911 call from a computer?

CountyDispatcher7 karma

Not from your laptop (as far as I know) but you can get a TTY machine if you are hearing/vocally impaired and basically text back and forth with us.

Some areas are experimenting with texting from cell phones to 911 but it is in its infancy

samson12283 karma

Would you recommend this as a job? I want to choose between this or a police officer

CountyDispatcher3 karma

If you can handle the stress from the calls and the hours of sitting, it can be really rewarding! Law Enforcement would be much more physically active and hands-on, but you'd be the one dealing with the situations in person, so there's a trade off

steve_the_woodsman2 karma

If someone is in a state of emergency, is it possible for them to give you verbal consent to ascertain their location via GPS off the cellphone? That would be so cool (as long as consent was given).

CountyDispatcher4 karma

If you stay on the line long enough, almost every time we are able to get a GPS plot within 30 yards. Normally traces are only done for missing people/kidnapping/etc

thatlamo2 karma

Why do you ask for names, dates of birth and such of people involved? What happens to the information when the call ends, like do you have some sort of database that it stays in?

CountyDispatcher2 karma

Sometimes we get that info to help identify someone for law enforcement to watch out for on scene, or because we can use that info to check for outstanding warrants and such. It goes into our system and that's it, it can only be searched by us or with a court order

mrleiferich2 karma

What happens when you get a pocket dial? What's the standard route of determining if there is an emergency or not?

CountyDispatcher2 karma

If we hear yelling/gunshots etc, that's the obvious time, but other than that we listen as best we can for voices or noises that might tip us off

obievil1 karma

My Daughter once called 911 because she wanted to see the fire trucks. how often do you get these kinds of calls?

CountyDispatcher1 karma

Haha, thankfully not very often!

RangerW0lf1 karma

What the the best order to give information in time of an emergency. So would you want to know the address, name, and what's happening in what order. Also any other questions we should also try and have the information ready for when a person calls?

CountyDispatcher1 karma

Location, first and foremost.

Then your phone # in case we get disconnected.

After that, we will guide you to get what we need :)

crackerjam1 karma

First off, thanks for doing what you do, I'm sure plenty of the calls you get aren't easy to handle without making a dent in your psyche. My question is, say a guy with a gun jumps into my car at a stop sign, and I dial 911 on a cell phone in my pocket. What would you be able to do in that situation?

CountyDispatcher2 karma

Thank you for your support!

If you were unable to speak into the phone, the GPS location would (hopefully) let us know where to send units, and (hopefully) the dispatcher would have the presence of mind to listen a bit and see if they can figure out what is going on


I've had a couple friends who were dispatchers and enjoyed it. Would you suggest it to anyone? I'm considering doing it myself.

CountyDispatcher1 karma

I think you can Google "bad 911 calls" or find them on YouTube and probably get some sense of what it's like to hear someone who is going through a real emergency. If you can listen and think you could handle it, by all means apply! We always need more dispatchers!

ImUnprobable1 karma

How often do you receive calls from people who just want to talk? I help build the 911 calling platform at a previous job and when we first launched we would periodically listen in on calls to ensure that there were no issues and once saw the same number call a few times in a row, sounded like an older man who was just wanted to talk, don't remember what he stated.

CountyDispatcher2 karma

I've never had someone come right out and say they just wanted to talk, but we can tell, and we talk as long as we can unless there are other emergencies going on and we can't be on the phone like that

Delvebot1 karma

Hello there, thanks for this AMA!

My question is, how does one get into This line of work? Is there opportunity for part-time work? How does it pay? I live in Canada but assume most readers are in the US, any info is appreciated :)

CountyDispatcher2 karma

We do hire part time in my center (as well as others, I'm sure). The pay is decent with no degree required ($30-$40k per year depending on the area)

I just submitted my resume/application for the opening and ended up getting it!

zerotetv1 karma

In Denmark, there's a 911 app (called "112 app", since our emergency number is 112), which sends GPS info as a continuous stream to the dispatcher. My aunt is a dispatcher and she says it helps tremendously when people use the app rather than just calling regularly, as they not only know where you are immediately, they can also direct you where to go and follow your movements for the duration of the call.

Now to the question: Does the US (or any other country for that matter) have an app or service like this, that makes it easier/more convenient for dispatchers to help us, or do you know if there are plans for one?

CountyDispatcher2 karma

That is super freaking cool! I really, really wish we had that, and some major US cities may, but I couldn't list any off the top of my head