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Is This Really an Emergency? (English Cafe 124)


In today’s English Cafe 124, Jeff talks about the 9-1-1 emergency telephone system in the U.S. As Jeff mentioned, the emergency number should only be used for life-threatening (very dangerous) emergencies. These are some actual reasons people called 9-1-1. You decide if they are life-threatening emergencies:

  • A man broke up with (ended a romantic relationship with) his girlfriend and wanted police to go over to her house and to tell him the owners of any cars, other than hers, in her driveway in front of her garage or house.
  • A call came into 9-1-1 emergency because two couples were going to share a hotel room and there weren’t enough towels.
  • Someone called 9-1-1 to report that their parrot (talking bird) got out of its cage and is in a tree outside.
  • A drunk (person who had too much alcohol) called 9-1-1 to order a pizza.


And these are supposed to be actual 9-1-1 calls, but I’m dubious (doubting; not convinced it’s true). A dispatcher is a person who answers emergency calls and who sends the police, fire department, or an ambulance (a truck that takes sick or injured people to the hospital) to help.

Dispatcher: 9-1-1
Caller: Yeah, I’m having trouble breathing. I’m all out of breath. I think I’m going to pass out (to faint; to lose consciousness).
Dispatcher: Sir, where are you calling from?
Caller: I’m at a pay phone (public telephone) at North Avenue and Foster Street.
Dispatcher: Sir, an ambulance is on the way. What were you doing before you started having trouble breathing?
Caller: Running from the police.

Dispatcher: 9-1-1 What’s the nature of your emergency?
Caller: My wife is pregnant and her contractions (pains a woman feels when her baby is about to be born) are only two minutes apart.
Dispatcher: Is this her first child?
Caller: No, you idiot (very stupid or unintelligent person)! This is her husband!

~ Lucy

5 Responses to “Is This Really an Emergency? (English Cafe 124)”

  1. KCNY Says:

    Hi Lucy! The dialogue of actual 9-1-1 calls’ is humorous like a joke!

  2. Jamshid Says:

    Hi Lucy, Hi Jeff
    I’m agree with Kcny. It sometimes sound as a joke but is really true .
    I have worked in hospital for several years and I saw a lot of emergencies !!!!
    I’d like to mention that sometimes is only fear of die in loneliness and/or the people need someone to speak .
    However if you work in hospital you have a lot of unimportant calling at the weekend and several days before the new year.
    One way or another you must take all telephone calls important because it’s a time to suicide and you must work as a professional ,of course not about the people who call to ask what the time is or their parrot got out of the cage and is in the tree outside …. anyway working as a dispatcher , M.D. or a nurse in hospital are very hard jobs and you have to have nerve as a barbwire.
    be patient
    Jamshid from Berlin

  3. chan bo Says:

    These are very funny stories. Actually, we have a same situation in China as yours. Some people left their keys in their houses and called 1-1-0 (Chinese emergency call). Another thing I have learned in this cafe is that 9-1-1 didn’t originally come from the event of September 11th. I had thought it is in memory of sept. 11th.

  4. ESLPodcast Google Group Says:

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

  5. Jean-Daniel Says:

    I’m really wondering if the date of september eleven was choose because of 911…