My mother and I were coming home for the grocery store today, when while on the freeway we saw a car crash to the shoulder. It was unattended and it seemed as if some people were trapped inside one of the cars. This being the case, my mom instucted me to call 911 on the emergency cell phone we keep in the glove compartment.

So I dial up trusty 911, press send and it begins to ring. And ring. And ring. It rings 12 times before I get a response. And what a lovely response it was.

"Thank you for calling 911 emergency assistance. All our operators are currently busy, please remain calm and stay on the line. We appreciate your patience."

I hung up the phone, after losing all the respect I used to hold for the "life saving" community. Got a mad rapist after you? Did you lose your arm? Is your house on fire? Give us 15 minutes and we'll see what we can do. Fantastic.

Well, what can the life-saving community do?
If there aren't enough operators, and there's no more money to hire more, a message is better than nothing.

I fully agree it sucks (having to have waited through such a message, to report a minor collision a friend of mine was in), but the fault is more in the lack of money, and the people who call 911 to complain about their loud neighbors or such.

Find the number of the police station, darn it!
(And get those emergency services more money).
Perhaps all the operators you just completely lost your respect for were swamped with calls from other people dialing in with other cell phones reporting your accident and/or other people reporting their minor collisions (Clue! quantumet, 911 is an emergency number, as you say. If nobody's life is in danger and the situation is pretty stable, you should be calling the police, not 911. If you don't have numbers in the car (shame on you!) you should be dialing the operator.)

At least they were hopefully doing more than you were, sitting on your butt with your cell phone. (And incidentally, if you're being raped, a handgun is going to be a lot more helpful than a cell phone.) Even under ideal situations, emergency staff can't work miracles. They can't instantly beam to the site or make your trouble disappear. And the ideal situation is seldom actual.

In short, in the end you've got to fend for yourself. Emergency response folks are mostly hard working. If they have shortages, it's probably not their fault. Don't blame them; do something about it. And above all, don't abuse emergency services. Save it for the folks that really need it.

And if you are in trouble and can't get through in an emergency, keep your head and call someone you can get through to. Remember the adage, "Call for police. Call for an ambulance. Call for pizza. See who comes first."

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