Many times, there are callers who are frequent or call in many times for the same type of call.
It could be a medical call or any other type of call. Even though dispatch may have spoken to the same person regarding the same issue many times over, this does not mean that it’s not an emergency. Each call is still handled as an emergency until it’s determined otherwise by responders on scene. Below is a small glimpse of what may happen with dispatch.
Dispatcher: “911, where is your emergency?”
Caller: “There is someone outside my house he keeps watching me and just standing there. He won’t leave.”
Dispatcher: “What is your address?”
While the dispatcher is obtaining location, phone number and name the second dispatcher is sending the correct law enforcement. Instantaneously, both dispatchers recognize the location and caller. This caller has called in at least 15 times in the last three months about the same thing. The responding officer also recognizes the caller. This does not deter the response from the officer nor the further questions from dispatch. Even though the questions are always answered the same.
Dispatcher: “Mr. Smith is your door locked?”
Dispatcher: “Do you know who the man is?
Caller: “No, he is just standing there I think he has a knife.”
Dispatcher: “Can you describe him? What is he wearing?”
Caller: “A red shirt with brown pants. His hair is different like it is not there.”
Dispatcher: “Where are you at in the house?”
Caller: “I’m at the kitchen table.”
Dispatcher: “Can you go to another room? Possibly away from the window?”
Caller: “No; if I stop looking at him then he will change back into the tree.”
Dispatcher: “What do you mean he will change back into the tree? Is he by a tree?”
Caller: “I told you already that every time I look away, he changes back to a tree.”
Dispatcher: “OK, Mr. Smith, I’m going to stay on the line with you until the officer get there.”
Caller: “Thank you. I just don’t know who he is or why he is here; I wish he would just go on away.”
Dispatcher: “I understand, and we will definitely help you and the officer will be there any time to talk to the man.”
Caller: “He won’t talk to me; he just looks at me. I hope they take him away.”
Dispatcher: “The officer is outside; can you see him?”
Dispatcher: “OK, Mr. Smith. Will you go to the door and talk with the officer?”
Each time an officer responds, he checks the area and the house for the “man.” There is never anything or anyone found. The caller is certain of all the details he is providing, and just doesn’t understand why the man keeps coming back to his yard. He is always grateful and thanks both dispatch and the officers for getting the man to leave. When a dispatcher is on the phone with Mr. Smith, they can always tell how he calms down more as the call progresses. It may be just the knowledge that someone is there to listen and send help.
This particular caller lives alone and may have some type of mental disorder. The officers have worked diligently with him and even reached out to his family. An ambulance has responded a few times also at the request of an officer on scene who noticed a possible medical issue. The caller was transported to the hospital for observation and a checkup. Callers such as this are not confined to a certain age range or any other demographic. I only used the name “Mr. Smith” as an example.
A dispatcher may not be physically on scene with any caller, but they are the first on scene for every call they answer. With every call, they use their interrogation skills, along with listening to the caller and background noise, and what the caller does not say. They use this information to visualize and relay information to the responding units.
I have used this as an example for only one reason: To show that every call is treated as an emergency, because every call is an emergency to that caller. Even though this person may be experiencing some difficult times and behavior, dispatch will never discredit their call for help. Emergency personnel will always be dispatched and will always respond. There may be that one day when it is not a routine call of the man standing outside. It could be that one day that the man is there for real, has a knife and does intend to use it. For the people who may be worried about their family member who is this frequent caller, please know that dispatch does take every call as it a true emergency and responders will react as if it’s a real emergency. No one is forgotten about or left without help.
The Texas County Emergency Services office in Houston is funded by a 3/8-cent countywide sales tax approved by voters in 2013. Assistant director Terra Culley can be reached by phone at 417-967-5309 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.