Emergency or non-emergency?

By Earlene Bohannon

 I had worked a full day followed by a five hour recertification class for CPR/AED/1st Aid Training. It wasn’t until I was home and readying for bed that I realized I had left my purse at the local Fire Station.

 I felt quite panicky over the matter.

 As I do not have a landline, I googled “NON-Emergency number for Meade County, Kentucky” and dialed that number. A recorded voice stated that nobody was available to take my call but if I needed to speak to the “desk officer on duty”, to call “this” number.

 So I did.

 “911, what’s your emergency?”

 I was actually stunned into silence.

 “Hello? This is 911. What’s your emergency?”

 I explained that I did not have an emergency, however I did need assistance.

 The operator proceeded to ask a series of questions: my address? name? phone number?

 I tried to interrupt to say it was not a “real” emergency; I just needed my purse. He continued to calmly ask me the series of questions and I complied.

 Finally, the young man understood I was not in peril; I just wanted to get back into the building to fetch my purse. He told me he’d make some phone calls and get back to me.

 I disconnected and turned to find my husband staring at me with a look of disbelief, “did my wife just call 911 because she can’t find her PURSE?”

 I replied: “No. I called the number that I was directed to call and IT connected me to 911...”

 My husband: “what was the number you called?”

 Me: “422-forty nine-eleven” (that’s exactly how I read the number to him)

 Eddie’s face turned beet red: “Earlene! THAT’S 911!”

 Just then my phone rang. It was the young man from dispatch calling me back.

 I was told to return to the station and the fire chief would meet me there to get my purse.

 My husband said, “not only has my wife called 911 over a purse; now she’s getting the Fire Chief out of bed to bring it to her...”

 Turns out the CPR/1st Aid Instructor who taught the class had found it as she was closing up and had taken it with her when she left.

 The Fire Chief had called her after the dispatcher called him.

 All ended well.

 However, I could not stop wondering if my situation was unique. Do other dispatchers take panicky “non-emergency” calls? Would a larger city offer the same quick personal response? Do people hesitate to call out of fear of being labeled as “over reacting” or feeling embarrassed?

 I met with Jeremy Miller, who is currently serving as interim director of Meade County 911, for some answers.

 After listening to my recent personal experience he said that many people might hesitate or feel embarrassed about reaching out for help in a similar situation. He assured me that nobody should feel either of those ways ever. He said that as far as he and his staff are concerned, every call is an emergency to the person who has placed the call and his staff is well trained to treat each and every call as the emergency it is to the person who initiated contact. He said it does not matter if it’s a heart attack, an automobile accident or the proverbial “cat stuck in a tree” situation, each call is treated without prejudice. Miller said every person who reaches out to his office is treated with kindness, dignity and respect.

 When I asked Miller if he thought it was because Brandenburg is a small town that my situation was dealt with as it was, he commented that he would hope anyone seeking 911 assistance would be treated likewise—regardless if it was a town the size of Brandenburg or a larger city.

 Miller explained that many Meade Countians will still call 270-422-4911 seeking emergency help. He said that calling 911 was not available in this area until the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. This information was confirmed by Ron Dodson of Ron’s Emergency Management Page; Dodson further stated that it was through the effort of then Sheriff Joe Greer that 911 was brought to the Meade County community. Many of our locals still have that number memorized and will instinctively dial it when they need help. It is set up as a “non-emergency” number, but will automatically roll over to dispatch if it’s after hours. Office hours for “non-emergency calls” are 8 am - 4:30 pm Monday-Friday.

 Miller encourages anyone who needs help to call either 270-422-4911, or the more widely recognized 911, regardless of the situation. Miller assured me that he and his staff are fully qualified to make the determination of what kind of help is needed. He also stated that there is no such thing as a “silly” call, and that Dispatch is there to be of service to the community.

 Other Helpful Numbers:

Meade County Fire District: (270)422-4535

Meade County EMS: (270)422-4023

Meade County Community Action: (270)422-2545

Meade County Sheriff’s Office: (270)422-4937

Brandenburg Police Department: (270)422-4981

 In all situations, it is always appropriate and encouraged to call 911.

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