Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Thanks for calling 911, please hold!

I've learned to deal with being put on hold. Cable out? twenty minute beethoven session. Internet issues? Maybe some Mozart and an intermittant metallic operator's voice telling me that currently all representatives are assisting other customers and to please wait on the line for the next available representative. I secretly suspect that "all customer representatives" means one guy eating cheetohs while staring with riveted fascination, and a slight drool, at a scab on his wrist. Even as frustrating as being on hold can be, odds are in scenarios such as these its not a matter of life or death, surely missing one episode of King of Queens won't kill you. May as well put the phone on speaker, grab a book and a comfy couch and wait for someone to pick up.

But check this out, today driving home as I'm making a turn I see an accident in progress with airbag deployed and people not looking too good. So I pick up my cell and call 911. It rings. and rings. and rings. Then a cheerful machine tells me that all operators are currently assisting other callers and to please not hang up for they shall be with me shortly. I WAS ON HOLD FOR FIVE MINUTES. Had this been an actual emergency, whereby I mean a life was in jeapordy GOD FORBID what would have happened? By this point a burglar could be well in the house demanding a cup of tea!

I've had to use 911 an uncommonly amount of times (two of which were potentially life threatening emergencies) and normally they are quick and helpful staying on the phone with you asking you all sorts of silly questions that you in your panic stricken state think are meaningful and answer thoughtfully and seriously not realizing they don't care what color your walls are at that moment but are simply trying to keep you on the line to make sure you are okay until help arrives. It makes me shudder: what if the car accident had been life threatening?

911: here's some friendly advice: Hire some more folks. Keep them scab free. And don't serve cheetohs.

28 comments:

Yasser said...

I know that this might be really disturbing in North America but in the country where I am from (Bulgaria) there are some rediculous delays with ambulances like 50 + minutes....

Aisha said...

50+ minutes, wow. Well its nto so ridiculous Yasser, In Miami in one of my 911 calls the police showed up after 2 hours. It just depends where you are!

Btw I checked our your site, very interesting and very different :)

Tee said...

It is scary when that happens but it is just a matter of how many calls are in at that time and how many dispatchers are available.

When I was a dispatcher there were times when we sat literally for hours just watching TV, reading and yes, snacking (although I don't prefer cheetos. LOL.) And then all of a sudden - as if the moon had hit a sweet spot in the sky - all the lines would light up. Sometimes it would be people all calling about the same thing
(a gunshot heard in a neighborhood for example), but many times it was not.

You could have on one line a burglary in progress, on another line a 2 car accident with fatalities, and on another line a domestic dispute that is turning violent.

If you feel your local law enforcement is lacking the best thing you can do is support a raise in taxes or decisions to give them extra money, when those times come around. Most are opposed to raising taxes but as a population grows, so does crime, and so does the need for your police department to employ more people, train them better, and give them newer equipment.

While this doesn't really concern your particular situation, you could also start a neighborhood watch or police auxillary. Most departments are more than willing to help get them started and give you tips.

Make sure you have the police department's non-emergency number for those less important calls and find out if your home is located in the jurisdiction of the county or city police. (Time is often wasted calling the wrong department.) This all helps free up the officers for more important calls making their response time faster.

When you're on with the dispatcher - don't recount the story in too much detail if it isn't really necessary. Give your location and keep it simple. They'll ask more questions if they want more information. (You wouldn't believe how many people go into their life stories.)

Example of a bad call: "Hi, um, I'm calling because I heard a gunshot, well, I'm not sure if it's a gunshot, it could be a firecracker, but that would be a really loud firecracker. Nearly gave my little dog a heart attack! Poor thing, she's here trembling from head to toe! Really gave us a scare. I'd like someone to come out and see which it was, because I mean, if it was a gunshot, I don't know if I want to live in this neighborhood anymore. I can't believe how crime has gone up."

LOL - You think I'm joking but little old women typically call in like this.

A good phone call would be:

"I think I heard a gunshot outside. I'm at 123 Elm Street."

The dispatcher may ask you what time you heard it, etc, but let them lead the conversation.

ANYWAY - Sorry if I got preachy. LOL. My 3 months of hell at the police department should at least help for something!

Aisha said...

Tee, I forgot you were a dispatcher once :) Sorry about the description I assumed for them! But seriously sometimes I call COMCAST my cable provider and its at 2am and they put me on hold for thirty minutes and I can't help but wonder how many other people are calling at that very moment. Very unlikely its more than three in my local office :) I dunno.

Thanks for all the advice though about being quick. But one thing. I noticed when I called in the past (most of the 911 were in Gainesville, FL) they kept me on the phone util police arrived. does that vary county by county?

Bee Amma said...

Thats quite appalling. whats worse is when you ring somewhere and inbetween the beethoven they jibber some nonsense about how important your call is to them. As for 911 being busy, thats just silly. I have had to call for an ambulance once in my life, and it was an ok experience. Police tho, errr not so okay! For reporting something simple you get harrassed to high hell and then they want to come SPEAK to you, uhhh how about you stay the hell away from my house so the robbers/men with guns outside don't come kill me later!!!

Tee said...

Aisha - No problem - I'm sure your descriptions apply in some places! Besides, while I can't talk about all dispatchers and only the ones from the department where I worked, they were miserable people anyway. Gossiping and backstabbing - complete and total B-words. I was too sweet to work there. I was too sensitive and nice to work there. I was eaten alive. I usually cried before I went, on my break, and on my way home. People were just so mean.

ANYWAY.

On 911 calls people are not always kept on the line - it really depends on the situation. It's good to keep the caller on the line in a developing situation so that they can relay any information by radio to the officers en route so they can be as prepared as possible.

pixie said...

That is crazy that it took that long. I have been lucky, whenever I have called it has been a quick response.

mezba said...

Never had that experience in TO. Once I called to report a truck on fire and got transfered to a lady cop patrol right away. She asked me where was the truck etc. Another time had to call 911 and they were again prompt and very good.

Mia said...

I prefer cheese doodles over cheetohs...lol Luckily here in NY we don't have one of those "hold please" systems. I can't even imagine the anger I would've been heated if I was in your position.

Shabina said...

wow, that's jacked up! did you hear about what happened recently in detroit? two 911 dispatchers landed in hot water after a little kid called to say his mom was in trouble...they treated it as a prank call, and mama died.

oh, and jeffrey fieger got involved.

'nuff said

Aisha said...

Tee- I'm sorry that it was that miserable :( I'm glad you ddin't stay that long! I guess the times I called and they kept me on the line were serious situations that they needed to continue assessing. So that makes sense :)

Pixie and Mezba prompt service is the way it should be! I usually do to. This was just creepy.

Mia, is that right? no on hold situations? Thats interesting. In Miami when I called 911 they took FOREVER TO COME. I thought it was b/c it was a big city. NYC is bigger so its interesting they are not laxadasical about it. hahahah I wanted to use the Laxad... word but dont know if I spelled itright. Oh well, its the word that captured it best. Wht can I do?

Shabina, wow. I shall be googling it. That is tragic.

Mia said...

Nope no hold! Not only that if you hang up before the call is finished they have the technology to track your address and send the cops right on over to your house. It discourages the crank callers.

Raheel said...

okay so it also happens in amreeka.

Aisha said...

Mia, that's fantastic, maybe I can pass this info along to our dumb and dumber squad here!

Raheel, where have you been?! :)

momyblogR said...

I've used 911 before and was very pleased with the call and the response time.....but I know that isn't always the case.

This is a serious issue but man, you made me laugh out loud with the drooling, the whole scab on the wrist, eating Cheeto's and the demand for a cup of tea, LOL!! OMGosh! OK, so not only are you very smart, YOU are very funny! :):)

Zak said...

I've always believed the whole call centre system is more about saving pennies over effectiveness. translation: I agree with you wholeheartedly!

Aisha said...

Mommyblogr, lol yeah but that's what I picture when they play the beethoven and say so seriouslyt hta all operators are busy. I used to envision rows of operators. but now Im starting to wonder. Particularly if its my local company in Atlanta and I'm on hold for an hour at 5am!!!! :)

Zak, :)

sonia said...

this morning i was getting breakfast at a deli just across from where i work and i was amazed at how fast they work. they were serving customers with lightening speed (true it is manhatten and people are very edgy and impatient but their speed was truly remarkable, it was like 50 clients in 7 mins). i wonder what these people would do if their house was on fire and they had to wait 10 minutes on the phone. sounds ridiculous.

sonia said...

but on second thought in peshawar police NEVER shows up unless you are the governor......so it's all relative, isn't it?

Chic Mommy said...

that's awful. Here the operator answer quickly, but the problem is my Vonage phone service. My name, address, phone number doesn't appear on their screen so it's frustrating to recite your biodata while your panicking. I've had to use it for kid emergencies and fire emergencies. long stories.

Boo! said...

My sister's room at our house caught fire just a couple of months back (this is in Lahore) and the fire brigade didn't arrive till about 40 minutes after. What was worse was that they kept calling back every five minutes to confirm whether there was actually a fire.

Our house (or at least my sister's room) would've burnt to cinders if about a dozen people from the neighbourhood hadn't helped put it out.

Aisha said...

Sonia its true those NYC folks are very efficient. i saw that during my trip there.

Chic- are you otherwise happy with vonage? I've been meaning to get it. It seems very cost effective and convenient.

Boo! OH MY GOSH! That is so scar 45 minutes is def too late. You';re prety much on your own in sucha circumstance. :( I'm glad they saved the home.

Rabia said...

I called 911 on Mansoor once.

Chic Mommy said...

vonage is okay, the big plus is that it's cost effective.

The two big negatives are:
1. the 911 problem
2. when it rains, sometimes you won't be able to make a call. Just like the way satellite tv goes out when it rains too hard or there is too much wind, the phone goes out too.

Enyur said...

Yeah the cable guys are just as bad here too...When I call our cable company and I get this automated voice system, where the system (computerized male voice) asks you questions and then you have to say what you're calling about...which sounds really funny...but man is it annoying!!!

As for emergency calls, thank GOD it's not that bad yet. I had to make a 911 call when my dad had a heart attack 3 years ago. This was the firt time I had ever had to make a phone call (and sure hope I never ever have to do it again!). Anyway, while I was on the call, I could hear the sirens. I had expected the ambulance to come but it was actually the Fire Dept that came to the scene first (took 2 min)who were actually trained in dealing with medical emergencies and then the ambulance came after.

TwinTopaz said...

See..when you called..its was night time in Banglore so naturally all the operators were sleeping..got it?

next time please check local timings before calling 911..

Aisha said...

Rabia lol. I dont rememeber that. I do recall Chanda's brother Ali calling it on "Gudoo" and Haroon :)

Chic my mom said the same thin about the phone going in and out during bad weather. but still I mean if that happens you always have your cell phone I guess...

Enyur!!! Wow. Subhan'alah thats awesome that they came so quickly. How is your father doing now? That is great that they came like they should. One time someone in my family had to have it called and they came right away but got stuck at the gate to get in. It took them TEN minutes. Alhamdullilah it was a false alarm but it scares me...

Aisha said...

Twin. LOL. Thanks for the laugh. I actually lauhed out loud! :)

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