Beth Alston: Got a hangnail? Don’t call 911!

Published 1:19 pm Saturday, May 4, 2019

With a police scanner in the office that’s on 24/7, we newspaper folk hear it all. We learn about fires, traffic accidents, shootings, stabbings, funeral processions, broken water mains, electrical wires down, fallen trees, problems at local schools, etc. It’s an invaluable tool in reporting the news. However, we also hear the absurd, the ridiculous, the humorous, and well, the plain ignorant.
Here’s a sampling: “A 27-year-old woman who doesn’t feel like herself wants to be checked out.” This means that EMS will be sent to wherever this woman is located to “check her out” because she “doesn’t feel like herself.” If she wants a ride to the hospital, they will transport her. She may or may not pay. That’s one reason ambulance rides cost so much for the rest of us, those who do pay. We wonder why the woman who is “not feeling like herself” doesn’t drive herself to the ER or maybe have a friend or relative take her. We hear this type of call several times every week.
Or how about the mother who calls E911 to report that her 13-year-old son is talking back to her. We always get a chuckle out of this one. We often wonder, if the kid has previously had absolutely no upbringing and has never been taught right from wrong, why would mom be surprised now that he’s pushing back? Are law enforcement officers also supposed to me counselors? Officers are needed elsewhere, for real emergencies, when they are parenting someone else’s smart-mouthed kid. These type calls occur daily. There are slight variations on the theme. It might be a mother calling to her have 16-year-old daughter removed from her home because she is being disrespectful to her, or her 13-year-old daughter just verbally abused her and left the residence without permission.
Then there are the romance problem calls. For example, a 21-year-old female wants to speak with an officer because so and so is talking bad about her or flirting with her boyfriend or blah-blah-blah. Personal problems. Not problems for law enforcement!
And then, the calls for animal control …. We’ve heard some doozies. A man called E911 a couple of weeks ago because there was dog in his house “that looks confused.” What?! I don’t care what’s going on. The house could be on fire, a wild boar could be running loose in the house, or anything else, my cats’ demeanors never change. If a bug flies by, their eyes might widen, but they never, ever, ever have appeared to be “confused.” What’s this guy smoking anyway?
On a recent day, it was Wildlife Gone Wild judging from the number of animal calls. There was a call about woman reporting a snake in a tree in her yard. About an hour later, fire and rescue reported that they had located the snake but it “had crawled back into a hole in the tree.” Probably his home.
Another call was about an animal, “possibly a squirrel,” inside a residence. The first responder asked if the complainant could be more specific. The 911 dispatcher said, “No, they have left the residence.” Can’t really blame them. I had a squirrel in my fireplace several years ago and the animal control officer responded. We decided that I would open the fire screen and hold a big garbage bag out for the squirrel to jump into. The officer stood by with a long, stick-like instrument with a little noose at the end. When I opened the screen, he jabbed at the squirrel which immediately jumped onto my shoulder, launching itself off and then running around the room. I don’t know who screamed louder: the officer or myself but we chased the squirrel back into the great outdoors.
Then there was another call about a squirrel in someone’s yard. Wow. I could guess there are probably squirrels in everyone’s yard, nearly all the time. Don’t mess with them and they won’t mess with you.
There are constant calls about cows or horses in the roadway, stray cats and stray dogs. Every one of those calls get a response.
While it is entertaining to listen at times, it’s also disappointing that some people don’t mind tying up resources for matters they could handle themselves such as headaches, or back-talking children, or even a squirrel in the yard.
How would you feel if all the first responders were tied up answering trivial calls while someone in your family was having a heart attack or was badly injured in a traffic accident and couldn’t get help? Think about calling 911 before you do it. That’s all.

Beth Alston is publisher and editor of the Americus Times-Recorder. Contact her at or 229-924-2751.