911 Operators Reveal the 'Pettiest' Reasons People Called Emergency Line

The availability of a 911 line allows millions of Americans to call for emergency services daily in instances of immediate or imminent danger. However, one Reddit thread has shown that not everyone respects the line's "emergency only" rule.

A viral forum on Reddit that asked users about the "pettiest" or most ridiculous 911 calls they have witnessed has struck a chord among the emergency responder community, which said that misuse of the phone number has grown rampant in recent years.

On Sunday, an anonymous Redditor known only as u/_Atoms_Apple posed the question "911 Operators of Reddit, what is the pettiest reason someone has called 911?" The post was shared in the r/AskReddit forum, a space on the website where users engage with one another over thought-provoking questions.

The post quickly struck a chord with members across the emergency response service community, and quickly reached over 2,700 upvotes. Many explained that the line was frequently used by families airing out their personal drama.

"Woman called because her pregnant 14 or 15 year old granddaughter who lived with her and whose bed was the couch, wouldn't get off the couch so she could use it to watch tv," u/Here4TheShinyThings claimed. "The woman felt very indignant when I asked 'What exactly do you want the police to do?'"

"I received a call on the non emergency line from a 90-something year old lady asking me what lamp she should put in her bedroom," operator u/crip_tococcus claimed. "Eventually she got upset and said 'Fine I'll call 911, they'll help me there!' I tried to tell her that 911 would just go back to me and it was a misuse of an emergency line, but it was too late. 15 seconds later 911 rings, I answer and lo and behold it was the lady asking 'what lamp should I get for my bedroom?'"

Others shared that many calls came in regarding food. "Yeah I'm in England. We had a call (I worked for the ambulance service) asking where the best place to get a bacon sandwich was at 4 in the morning," u/Haarrrryyy98 claimed. "I work for small police station but once had 911 put through a caller who then requested that I patch them through to a pizza place so they could order pizza from a 911 only cellphone," u/vtphoenix22 added.

"I once got a call from a family of frequent flyers ... a husband's wife ordered the wrong topping on a pizza, so they got in an argument and then she threw a ham sandwich at his head," operator u/karalynn1982 claimed. "Another time a call came from a woman who just got out of church and the drive-thru to KFC was too long... and she wanted an officer to come out and help."

911 Operators Reveal 'Pettiest' Calls
A Reddit forum allowed emergency responders to share their wildest 911 calls, ranging from neighbor disputes to pizza delivery requests. Dmitry Feoktistov/TASS/Getty Images

Several Redditors without affiliation to the emergency service community shared personal anecdotes of wild 911 calls.

"8 or 9 years ago, my husband and I had a couple of acquaintances over for dinner one night ... The 4 of us were having a great time when one of the guys accidentally knocked over the other guy's phone and cracked its screen," u/lonedandelion claimed. "The second guy went mental ... He called 911 and the cops came. He told the cops that the second guy broke his phone and he wanted to file a police report. He asked the cops to force the second guy to give him money to repair his phone. The cops were so confused and annoyed."

Another user claimed their neighbor had a "vendetta" against them. "I once had the cops called on me by my neighbor. There was a car parked on the street by his backyard. Not blocking his parking space in front of his house, not on his property, not inconveniencing him in any way. It was not my car or that of anybody I knew," u/No-Umpire4788 alleged.

"Same neighbor called the cops on me for 'verbal assault' when he knocked on my door and said it was against the law to leave my trash can by the road a day after pick up and I told him to f**k off and closed the door," they added.

Newsweek was unable to verify the claims made on the alleged 911 calls.

Most Redditors engaging with the forum reflected on the misuse of emergency lines. According to the National Emergency Number Association, there are no national statistics that conclusively prove how many 911 callers abuse the system. However, research from the Arizona State University Center for Problem-Oriented Policing has shown that an increase in available technology has resulted in significant misuse of 911.

The university's study concluded that 911 misuse and abuse calls can be divided into two categories: unintentional, when the number is accidentally dialed or redialed, and intentional, when a caller knowingly calls for non-emergencies, pranks or dramatized disputes. The study asserted that "phantom wireless calls [alone] account for between 25 and 70 percent of all 911 calls in some U.S. communities."

As a result of a growing trend in inappropriate 911 calls, several states have begun rolling out laws to combat abuse of emergency services. In San Francisco, a board of supervisors voted to pass a law that would allow racially motivated targets of 911 calls to sue the person who reported them. The Caution Against Racial and Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act, or CAREN Act, was a response to instances in which 911 was used as a "hate crime" tool.

The act has been compared to the 2020 incident in which a white woman called the police on a Black birdwatcher in Central Park in New York that was widely criticized as racially motivated.