When I answer the 911 lines I say: “Key West 911, where is your emergency?” It’s a formula that works best for me, as often callers don’t know the address and if I ask them where the address of the emergency is they get all hung up on giving me a street number. I say “Key West” because that is where I work, and yet callers will often ask “Is this Key West?” because in the stress of the moment they aren’t listening to me. That happens a lot, so when I answered a 911 call and the caller asked me in surprise if I was 911 for Key West I knew something was up.
In fact he had an emergency in Rochester, New York and he thought when he dialed his cellphone which had the Rochester area code the telephone would reach his hometown emergency center. What he didn’t know, and most people don’t know is that their cell phones are simply radios and when you place a call you reach the nearest telephone tower. When the tower gets an emergency signal – “911”- it sends the call to the telephone exchange nearby which directs the call straight to the emergency center nearby. I had to explain to the caller that he could only reach his actual location on 911 and I used my own 911 Buddy app on my iPhone to get the direct dial line to Rochester’s 911 center. I guess it worked because I never heard back from him.
There was a fight one night in the drinking part of downtown Key West. Someone was hurt and needed an ambulance. I wanted to speak directly to a friend of the injured person to assess the injuries and pass that important information to the ambulance crew as they drove to the scene. The family members refused to call me on their own phones, I heard them arguing with my caller that their phones were from out of town and they wouldn’t be able to reach me. I desperately wanted them to know all they had to do was dial 911 but they wasted lots of time arguing and refusing to call. My caller, the witness eventually gave up and soon enough police were on scene to restore order.
It’s a common misconception that modern smart phones call home but they don’t, and I wish more people knew that.