Edit: I will answer every question. If I miss yours, Just PM me worst case.

Edit 2: Someone sent me a PM asking why I am doing this AMA. I'm doing it because I want everyone to know what it's like being a dispatcher and hopefully learn some about the job they have to do. Also, for the side note - if you ever call 911... Listen to the dispatcher! I swear, it will get help to you quicker, and will be more beneficial to you in the end.

Edit 3: Okay, I've answered every post up until now 2:35 am, I'll resume answering these later today - I must sleep for a couple of hours before work now. I do promise however, every post will be answered if its in question form.

Edit 4: OLD CELL PHONES THAT AREN'T ACTIVATED STILL CALL 911! Don't give these to your 2 year old who randomly presses buttons. Also, all US landlines call 911 regardless if they have service or not.

Comments: 2206 • Responses: 69  • Date: 

Guatemaulin934 karma

How long does it take to trace a location from a call?

pros5991039 karma


Okay, so when you call 911 - It's not instant. Sometimes (androids, iphones) it can be near instant - but other times, it takes 2-5 minutes. The first "location" data we get is the cell tower you call from, then any gps coordinates. The cell tower may not even be the nearest available, but it's just the one your 911 call was routed too.

Also, if your phone doesn't have GPS, it can take 30mintues to 24 hours for the phone company to trace it.

If you ever call 911, wait for them to say whatever and STATE YOUR LOCATION. That's more important then what is going on. Trust me.

Guatemaulin385 karma

Woah. That's crazy. Have you ever had a call and got disconnected and thought "I don't know where the hell they were at?"

pros599485 karma

A few times, but I usually was able to figure it out or get a general location.

FuckYouImFunny592 karma

Well, if it's landline it's instant, right? I remember being an idiot 6 year old kid and wanted to call 911 and hang up right when I dialed it. They called back and I was in trouble. Ended up hiding under the table where my dad couldn't reach me.

pros599455 karma

Yup! They are instant!

baxter45197 karma

I didn't know this, but now that I do it seems pretty damn important. Are there any other small things you can tell us that would help immensely in an emergency?

pros599437 karma

Location location location. That's the most important.

Followed by What. Don't gives us the whole "HE DID THIS HE DID THAT" all we need to know is "They are bleeding because they got in a fight"

Save everything else for the cop. We don't really need it. I mean, unless they are actively fleeing the scene and you are chasing them or something...

Also, if its medical, Location, followed by symptoms. Remaining calm is the hardest thing to do in an emergency, but its the best thing to do.

kitty_uwo531 karma

what is the most heart wrenching call you've ever received?

pros599856 karma

I heard a woman get beat by her husband. It was sad - I could hear her scream in pain. When the officers got there, she had bled all over the house and nearly died.

faledale240 karma

wow. how did that effect you?

pros599586 karma

I don't even...

I could never imagine hitting my Significant other... That call made me realize the reality of domestic violence and abuse. I never realized how bad it was before.

coltsfan141505 karma

Ever have someone die while you were on the phone with them?

pros599843 karma

Yes. My very first call I've ever had, the guy died. I heard him take his laugh "gasp" for air.

Captcha_Code155 karma

What happened to him? Did you wonder if this was "the job for you" after your very first phone call involved a death?

pros599280 karma

Nope. I knew it was.

It was interesting and cool at the same time >.>

coltsfan141144 karma

What made you stay with it after your first phone call ended in death?

pros599243 karma

The thrill. I mean... It was cool. Something that not everyone else did. :3

coltsfan141116 karma

Did you enjoy telling your friends about your favorite stories?

pros599227 karma

Of course! I hardly get to tell anyone about my stories. ._.

josh118983 karma

What kind of effect did that have on you?

pros599193 karma

It gave me a whole new perspective on how people can die and how valuable life is.

coltsfan14178 karma

Was this the only death you experienced or 1 of many?

pros599226 karma

I think I had 12 deaths - I lost count after like the 4th or 5th.

I tried with every one of those to help save them. Sometimes you just can't save people :C

coltsfan14192 karma

Wow, what were some of the causes of death and how did you handle the situations?

pros599509 karma

Preface: Every call had an EMS, Fire, Rescue and Cops sent out

Choking - The guy was alone and I heard him choking. I tried to help walk him through doing heimlick using a chair, but the last thing i heard was the chair slide, then a thud

Heart attack - The family was screaming his skin was yellow and he was cold. I tried to help them through CPR, but the guy was too big to get down off his bed (he was 400 lbs). You can't do CPR on a bed.

Drowning (infant) - That was really tough. I honestly didn't know what to say, and it was a very vague call for me.

Stabbing - The guy took his last breath on the phone. He asked me to pray to god for him. I'm not the same religion as he was, but I did it anyway. I said "God, please help this man through to pull through while I get help to him."

coltsfan14160 karma

You mentioned you were in college while having this job, was it hard for you at a pretty young age listening to people die? How did this affect you and your personal life outside of work?

pros599198 karma

It was hard the first time. Getting a death call on the first day was just... Damn. But - it made me wake up and live life. I mean... really. I realized that day, we all have our time. I may as well help people the best I can and live life to its fullest.

robotusson353 karma

*do you ever pick up your cell/home phone as 911 emergency response?

pros599479 karma

Twice. Once, I was half asleep - the second time I did it out of habit because I had received about 100 calls the shift before

robotusson215 karma

besides the hymen destruction you mentioned earlier, any stray sex stories come to mind?

pros599363 karma

Unfortunately yes. (other than the one about the woman having sex)...

We did have a woman call about her "man" not paying her for her services....

She was a prostitute, and she was arrested (She literally asked the cops to go with her).

There was another one where the man got stuck. Literally.

robotusson263 karma

What happened to the nonpaying client?

Was he fucking her in the ear?

That is the second time I've typed ear sex on reddit. ಠ_ಠ

pros599202 karma

We never caught him. She told us that he wasn't satisfied because of her bumps. (Dispatch was near the jail, and the jail sup called me over to hear this first hand).

I didn't ask about the bumps but she kept insisting she deserved to be paid for him seeing her naked. It was disgusting.

robotusson101 karma


what happened to the stuck fella

pros599176 karma

They transported him to the ER... They had some sort of injection I think.

DesWillenMacht276 karma

  • Weirdest Call?

  • Scariest Call?

  • Were there free doughnuts, or are those only for cops?

pros599478 karma

Some guy thought he broke his GF (like internal bleeding or something)- It was her first time for Sex. Cherry popped.

Some guy said he saw our cop car and he didn't see the cop. We couldn't reach him on the radio. It was scary, as the guy kept telling us their was a shooter in the area with an AK47.

Creepy and scary.

Yes. Lots of doughnuts.

Our cops would kiss our asses.

jordy240164 karma

What happened to the cop?

pros599668 karma

He was peeing in the woods. >.>

smittyline199 karma

And then he was added to the Sexual Offender registry, right. Right??

pros599265 karma

Nah. Each officer has their "Places".

Most carry toilet paper in their cars too.

liberalwhackjob125 karma


pros599239 karma

When you gotta go, you gotta go. Especially at 3 am in the middle of freaking no where. He had to go. >.>

SaucyWiggles89 karma


I see cops sitting about in their cars in parking lots or various parked spots in the middle of the fucking night, so what the hell are they doing there? Due to the whole Doppler effect and how speed-guns work, there's no way they're trying to catch speeders.

I imagine they're rushing to do paperwork before shift switch.

pros599155 karma

Most likely, they are writing reports.

Reports suck. Ask any officer. They could just also be waiting for the next call they get. I knew one guy who would sleep. It varies per officer.

SaucyWiggles77 karma

I stumbled across a sleeping officer in a church parking lot one evening, which is why I inquired. He had paperwork in the seat next to him, but I didn't have the heart to wake him.

pros599191 karma

I would have. For his safety.

DontSayWhat238 karma

Have you ever been in a situation where you have to talk someone down from committing suicide?

pros599319 karma

Yes... I wasn't trained to do it and we usually transfer them to the suicide hotline (unless they are hurting or have caused harm, then we send police - not medics until police clear) but there were multiple times the suicide hotline was offline.

DontSayWhat208 karma

Wow, thats pretty incredible. On a more personal note, and i hope you don't mind me asking, has anyone called in that you personally knew? I would imagine that would be nerve wracking.

pros599298 karma

Yes - They didn't know it was me. I had about 10 people I knew personally... When they panic, they never realize things like your operator name, your voice, or sometimes who they are calling (someone thought he was calling a 911 in texas, but we were on the east coast)

DontSayWhat157 karma

So, how did you take it? Did you act professional, or did you let them know who you were? Because i can imagine, that knowing the 911 operator can make a person feel as if they are in 'better' hands.

pros599242 karma

You have to take every call serious... I never let a person know - they honestly didn't care.

People don't call 911 to chat. Some called the sheriff's office to chat, but they were crazy. I did try to get personal with everyone by saying things like "It will be okay, everything will be fine" and "I need you to calm down" - but being personal when a person is screaming for help is hard.

LotE199 karma

I was trained not to tell people "it will be ok." In fact, things could end very badly. I was taught to focus on reassuring the caller that help is on the way and, keeping safety in mind, guide the caller in doing things that will hopefully help his/her outcome.

Apologies for jumping in late. I always miss the good AMAs.

pros599212 karma


We were trained that too, but the "It will be okay" was usually directed to people who were family members. I don't think I said that literally, because It will be okay did sound harsh, but I would say something like "The help will be there as soon as they can, In the mean time I need you to ....... to help your _______"

I said the "it will be okay" just to summarize some of the things I said.

bluENTed47 karma

How can I call 911 in another location like the man from Texas did? For example if I was on the phone with someone in another state and there was an emergency and they couldn't call the police themselves?

pros59954 karma

Call the non emergent lines for that department.

There are things called the trunk lines (10 digits, (xxx) xxx-xxxx) which are the lines which go to 911, but you can't really get those numbers.

Captcha_Code236 karma

  • How often do you get phone calls? Is it a once per half hour sort of thing or what?

  • Are most calls "important" (like someone dying or a robbery or something) or are most calls stuff like, "There's some shit on the road. Someone needs to come pick it up."

I've asked too many questions on this AMA.

pros599262 karma

It depends - we had a train derailment once, we got about 100 calls in about 10 minutes (for 5 people), which ramped up to 500+ per 10 minutes. Sometimes, we can go 4-6 hours without a single call. I think I worked one night shift and took two calls that night (8 hours)

Eh it's half and half. Honestly, I lived in BFE - so most calls were over blown.

dyl666150 karma

What is BFE

pros599429 karma

Bum fuck egypt (Middle of nowhere)

kuromagi235 karma


pros599195 karma

That's what dispatchers are for! Just call 911 anytime you need them. :)

Pavilion75206 karma

If you dont understand what the person is saying, say he has a heavy accent, who would you get to help figure out what the person is saying? Would you just kinda infer what he was trying to say?

pros599228 karma

Ahhhh yes. We had this a lot.

There is a thing called language line - if they speak hardly any english, we get language line up and they will translate any language. (to help with calls).

Normally, you can figure out what they want though, even with a heavy accent.

theorys71 karma

What the? How the hell does that work?

pros599151 karma

Idk... Its some company that hires a bunch of translators.

ValerikScorn174 karma

What was the funniest call?

pros599315 karma

The funniest call was when someone called as they were having sex. I didn't realize they were having sex. I thought they were in pain and needed help. ._.

jordy240130 karma

Did you send an ambulance?

pros599263 karma

No, on call back she stated "OH I'M FINE gasp DON'T WORRY ABOUT ME"

I turned bright red and have never felt more embarrassed in the Sheriff's office ever.

crseat114 karma

Why did they even call in the first place?

pros599198 karma

Some people don't know how to lock their phones, some don't know they are laying on it...

It was an accident they called (or so they said), and I'm not sure how she did it, unless she left the phone under him or she had it in her hand... but meh. >.>

dumbest_thang_ever211 karma

Lots of smart phones have an "Emergency Call" button that automagically dials 911 if you hold it down for a bit. Most of these are available even when the screen is locked.

pros599160 karma


Photonchamber165 karma

Is it true that 911 Operators are trained to respond to 911 calls in disguise? I heard a story about a woman whose husband took her hostage and then made her order them a pizza, but she called 911 instead and spoke as if she was ordering a pizza. The operator apparently knew to ask if she was in immediate danger. Confirm/deny?

pros599154 karma

Very true. It depends on the Operator, but everyone in our office would have figured it out.

nigelbabu139 karma

  • What's a normal day like? Is there a normal day?
  • How many calls do you take a day on average?

pros599150 karma

It was an 8 hour shift, and no. It was so abnormal. So many things you can't be trained on... It's hard. Try remembering to teach a person how to give CPR under severe pressure.

It would vary... I had one where I took 2, and another where I took 300 (football night)

asw13871 karma

Care to elaborate on "football night"?

pros599119 karma

Homecoming I think... We had a university in county limits.

nanonanopico131 karma

Thanks for doing this IAmA! Out of idle curiosity, do you have any specific religious beliefs? You touched on the subject further up the thread, and got me wondering.

pros599702 karma

I'd have to call myself an Atheist. I respect everyone's religion though, and nonetheless - I've read the entire bible and know why I disagree with it.

But as I stated earlier, sometimes (even as an atheist), I do things that I don't believe in to help others (prayer). Maybe I don't get anything from prayer or believe in it, but he did and I wanted to give him some hope.

It's been proven that people who have hope in critical conditions are more likely to pull out. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I would have told him I was Atheist instead of helping him.

OWSLinks120 karma

How do you handle a troll?

pros599235 karma

We tell them we are tracing the line and sending the police. Then I go back to sleep.

Captcha_Code118 karma

Do you?

pros599211 karma

It depends. If they call from a land line, absolutely.

If they call from a cell phone and sound like they are in trouble or danger, then we have to.

VeritFN98 karma

Do you go back to sleep?

pros599147 karma

It depends. If it's slow. Yeah.

tenor3155 karma

This makes me feel safe.

pros599188 karma

You say that, but the phones ring loud, and there are at least 2-3 other people there at all times.

AnonymouserRedditor81 karma

Are you allowed to?

pros599225 karma

As long as we answer the phones.

PersonX2117 karma

Can you text 911?

pros59980 karma


babysealsareyummy116 karma

How would you respond to a call about something like this? (maybe NSFW)

pros599125 karma

We send out our animal control of course! They wouldn't understand, so they'd probably shoot it and try to take it for dinner (bfe department).

Aside from Super Troopers, we had a high number of calls about cattle in the road.

right_foot94 karma

Which call (or type of call) put you under the most stress? I read you had to help deliver babies, so I'm assuming that's pretty high on the list.

pros599138 karma

Yeah that and child abductions. Those were the two most stressful calls ever.

The third was the one where the officer didn't answer his radio and we got the call about the shooter & the cop car abandoned (he was peeing in the woods).

The fourth was probably the call where we had a 4 car wreck and I had to send 5 EMS trucks and the helicopter. The thing was, we only had 11 ems trucks in the county (during night shift, 15 during the day - 500 sq miles i think) so with that, we ended up having people wait for the ems for an hour or more. That sucked too.

right_foot75 karma

It seems like any child-related call would just plain suck to get.

pros599106 karma

Yeah.. Or infant calls.

fintel92 karma

what is the weirdest thing someone has called you up for?

pros599194 karma

They wanted a back massage.

fintel76 karma

so... did you ....?

pros599151 karma

I sent a deputy out... lol But he requested one.

t0mbstone88 karma

I live by myself. If I'm taking my vitamins in the morning and they go down the wrong way and I start choking to death but manage to dial 911 before passing out (and all you hear is some weird noises), what are my chances of being rescued before I die, and will it matter if I leave my apartment door unlocked and make sure my phone is in my pocket before I take my vitamins?

pros599126 karma

If you have a smart phone, it depends on how well of a GPS signal we get. If you have a home phone, most departments have a policy where an officer has to go to the home.

Always make sure your apartment door is unlocked, and the best thing to do is keep dialing 911 with the dispatcher on the line. The noises, a lot of time we attribute to just weird noises. We always called back, but if you keep pressing 911 (we know that sound) it may give you a better chance.

I'm sorry I can't answer this better. If it were me, (since I live alone as well), I'd run down and beat on every neighbors door. I'd hope one of them were home to call for help for me.

The best thing to do as well is to use a chair, and do the heimlich on your self.


Learn that, also talk to the red cross and see about classes. (It's always good to know)

fruitball4u84 karma

If I was interested in doing this as a job, how should I go about it? Who do I talk to/where would I apply?

pros599116 karma

Call the department on the non emergent line. Ask to speak to the captain, and ask how you apply. It's on the job training, and no special skills required (other than multitasking, computer skills, speech and quick thinking).

lastchancealfy63 karma

hows the pay?

pros599122 karma


bunnysuitman75 karma

How many regulars did/do you have?

How did your department handle 'chatters'?

pros599115 karma

We had one... He called at least twice a week. Pretty sure he had PTSD. It really depended on how busy we were. I lived out in BFE where there was still a "driving while black" charge, so usually it wasn't so busy. In any case, if they were just "chatting", we'd usually tell them we had to go or to hold.

For the guy that called every week+ , everyone else was mean, I tried to be empathetic for a while

sams162353 karma

Could you give us more on the guy with PTSD? What kind of things did he even say? How did you handle it?

pros599278 karma

He was from Vietnam I think.. He always had the weirdest stories. >.>

I don't really like talking about him if you don't mind... His stories can be identified to him.

tylerg201575 karma

Have you ever lost contact while a person was distressed or in danger? How did you deal with that?

pros599147 karma

Usually, we call them back. You can lose contact all the time. Out of the times I've lost contact, I'd say maybe 5% were permanent, and of those 5%, about 95% were probably not important.

I'd say there is only one call that was dangerously lost, and that was a man in the mountains... He called 911 but before I could get his location, his phone died. He didn't have service, and from the brief gps segment I got, we were able to send rescue. They found his car about 20 miles from the road (this was over night, and it was 20 degrees that night) but couldn't find the man. We contacted the car owners, and they weren't able to get in touch with him. After a week, they pronounced him missing and put him in NCIC. I don't know if they ever found the guy/body

tylerg201551 karma

Wow. I don't recall you mentioning above, but what state/area was this in?

pros599103 karma

Somewhere in SC, NC or GA.

One of those three. Close to the mountains. I don't want to say for anon purposes.

kellaorion73 karma

What shift did you normally work? Is there a time when 911 calls are the most frequent?

pros59995 karma

I used to work 11p-7a - and it can vary so much. It's insane. I can't say one time more frequent than others, but if I had to qualify, i'd say 7pm-10pm

stayonthecloud61 karma

When people post 911 calls on youtube, where are they getting them from?

pros599104 karma

We would record calls with our cell phones... I imagine that's where they come from. I've never uploaded one to youtube nor do I know anyone that has (personally)

Sometimes, the news gets a hold of them and does it. Every call is recorded, and can be taken by the news through freedom of information. There are some legalities behind it, I'm not aware how all that worked.

pennytea58 karma

Why did you leave the job?

pros599120 karma

I was in school for Comp Sci and I got a very generous job offer I'd be stupid not to take. O.o

BeefAndBroccoli50 karma

Did you get drug tested upon getting hired or any time after that?

pros59972 karma

Never once.

But most departments do test. Ours was "random" but I never got tested for the random part.

mustaddsriracha46 karma

Why did you choose this line of work? Any specific reasons, or just because?

pros59981 karma

It was a job, I was in college and I needed money. I like helping people and it was cool nonetheless...

mustaddsriracha38 karma

Well, whether it was for the money or not (initially), you must have helped a lot of people every day you worked as an operator. You should be proud. It also must have been quite tough... Any specific calls that had a major effect on you?

pros59971 karma

Honestly - all calls had an effect on me. It gave me a new (bitter) perspective of people, and made me watch my back.

And thanks .^ Honestly, Dispatch is one of the most under appreciated jobs ever. I loved the job, but I still empathize with every dispatcher out there.

johnnyboyyy2339 karma

What do you do when you don't receive a call for a few hours?

pros59981 karma

We'd watch movies, surf reddit, do homework, sleep, eat or play board games. (Or talk).

Our captain would not let us bring laptops in though... she was weird. But yeah, homework was allowed so being in college, that helped.

[deleted]39 karma


pros59959 karma

We actually used Motorola - NICE was too high tech for us. It was crap. It'd record about 80% of the calls, and when it did record, 5-10 seconds were cut off at the start.

veryikki33 karma

How do you got about getting a job as a 911 operator? How do they prepare you for the job? Do you need any qualifications?

pros59946 karma

You call the 911 non emergent line and speak with the captain.

Usually, they give you tests to test your memory, ability to think and talk.

The only qualifications are: computer skills, fast thinking, good memory, fast typing, good speech and good people skills.

I lacked the last one, but I still made it through. The job taught me a lot about the last one though.