What If You Call The Emergency Services and They Don’t Respond?

January 26, 2007

You might remember that just a few days ago here on SebRT.com I covered a series of spoof or non-emergency calls to 911 (999) emergency services. It is always bad when people abuse the services that are set up for when we need help the most but it is even worse when the emergency services don’t believe you or choose not to act when the emergency is actually serious and very real!

Well it happened. According to CNN last night at around 1:45AM the fire department was called about a BBQ restaurant that was burning down. The dispatcher was sure that it couldn’t possibly be a fire and quizzed the caller and finally decided that the call was not in regards to an emergency and the BBQ joint was just smoking ribs. 45 minutes later they got a call from another passer-by that the restaurant was on fire and this time after a quiz about how big the fire was and what colour the smoke was the dispatcher sent the fire department to tackle the now growing blaze. This was of course too late, the place is a total loss.

This is a serious problem as I saw in the interviews I watched on CNN. The Fire Department Asst. Chief Evans was less than happy to accept total responsibility that the dispatcher did in fact act too late and even said “there was PROBABLY a fire when the first caller rang in to the emergency services.” It seems to me that there are several at fault here. The dispatcher could have had his head screwed on properly and used his common sense At 1:45 in the morning they are not likely to be doing heavy duty cooking. The caller could have been a little bit more communicative and asked the dispatcher to send a police car out to assess the situation and they would have of course called out the fire department.

I offer similar advice to last week. Be smart when you call the emergency services. Be smart enough that if you think there is a fire or other emergency that you push the dispatcher if they don’t believe you. On the few occasions I have had need to call the emergency services I have never had them tell me that they don’t believe me. According to CNN the Fire Dept. was just up the road, If I was that close to the fire and knew the area, I would have gone and knocked on the door of the fire station. They are all at fault here but the dispatcher who didn’t send the resources out, should be fired.

4 Responses to “What If You Call The Emergency Services and They Don’t Respond?”

  1. Mike Says:

    There is no excuse for the dispatcher not dispatching at lease 1 fire truck to investigate this call. I suspect that the Dept. needs to change policies to require dispatchers to do their job and dispatch. Maybe they will get the idea when the owner of the business files a law suit against the dispatcher and the Dept.

  2. Pete Says:

    9-1-1 call takers/emergency dispatchers usually do a remarkable job. They can only go by what they are being told, as they cannot see what the callers are seeing. They sit in a “hot-seat” every shift, usually working under extreme conditions with minimum or understaffed shifts. Handling multiple phone lines, radios and incidents. With that being said, based on the information of this issue, but not knowing the local SOPs/SOGs, something should have been dispatched to at least investigate the callers report. A “Do not send” policy is not a good idea if that was the case here. Every call for help should be considered an emergency until proven that it is not. Using standard EMS, Fire, or Police Protocols helps to prioritize and funnel through those serious life threatening emergencies, to those that are not as serious, but still are acted upon in some manor.

    21 year veteran of a 9-1-1 / Communications Center.


  3. Pete, Thanks for a great comment. It is always wonderful to hear from someone who works in the situation we are addressing. Like I said the 911 dispatcher didn’t have to send out a fire truck, they could have sent out a police car to check out the situation. Sending nothing is simply unacceptable. -Seb.

  4. DJ Says:

    it does not matter whether the dispatcher believes the person or not. they should have atleast dispatched the fire dept to go and check it out. its better to have it and not need rather than need it and not have it. this is clearly the dispatchers fault for not dispatching the fire department. not the chief.


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