America’s first responders had a lot to handle this week, from the heroic to the half-baked. On one hand, two commercial fishermen, one a former first responder, saved two young girls by acting on a hunch, conversely, a 10-year-old boy in Massachusetts called 911 on his mom because he didn't want to go to bed. It reminds us as parents that we need to teach our kids what to do in an emergency and when they are crying wolf.
In the first case it was an adult calling 911 to help rescue two little girls, ages four and two: Scott Beutler – the former first responder, now a commercial fisherman – saw a fresh gash in a tree beside an Oregon highway and his training and instincts told him something was amiss. Mr. Beutler was driving with his co-worker Kraai McClure (who made the 911 call) when they saw a gash in a tree, according to the Associated Press.
What they found was a crash site where a mom died as a result, leaving her two little girls, injured, freezing and out of view of the road. Unlike adults who would have tried to get to the road or be in plain sight to be found, they were huddled under a blanket far from view. The girls finally got help after the two commercial fishermen decided the fresh gash in the tree was probably an indicator of a recent event and decided to turn around to check it out, according to AP.
Meanwhile, in Brockton, Mass. police say a boy, age 10, called 911 to report that his mother was telling him to go to bed at just after 8 p.m. and he didn’t want to go, according to Brockton Det. Lt. Paul Bonanca.
“We get a lot of hangup calls from kids ... but this one, apparently, didn’t want to go to bed, and to him that was an emergency,” Lt. Bonanca said in a phone interview this morning.
Dan Davis, age 10, a fourth grader refused to listen when his mother, Shamayne Rosario, 34, told him it was bedtime, according to The Enterprise News. The boy dialed 911 and hung up when his mother caught him in the act. In the recording of the call from when the 911 operator called back and mom explained, “It was my son...I told him to go to bed he doesn’t want to go to bed. He’s like, ‘I’m gonna call the cops on you, and I’m like ‘Go on. Go ahead!"’ “ Then mom is heard shouting at the child, one of her six children, “Dan! Would yopu like to talk to the police because they’re on the phone! Cause’ you can’t go around calling 911 for no reason when other people need their help for people who really are in trouble...he doesn’t want to come to the phone.”
“We had an officer go by the boy's home and explain when it's appropriate – and when it's not – to call 911. It stretches our resources when we get false reports, and it can get you into trouble or cause someone else not to get the help they need,” Bonanca explained.
The detective said that it’s fairly common for kids to call 911 accidentally and just hang up or to call for inappropriate or non-emergency reasons. “We’re pretty tolerant on the whole as long as it’s not malicious,” Bonanca said.
When our eldest son was two (he’s now 19) and we were living in Florida, he called 911 because he thought a real phone was a play phone and just dialed lucky. We didn’t know what he’d done until half the force was at our doorstep. Since then, I have always been fierce with my boys about 911 protocol.
Still, I looked around the Internet for other cases and, so far, my favorite is the little boy who called 911 because he needed help with his math homework and the kindly operator helped him out. Here’s a snipped of how it went:
Operator: 911 emergencies.
Boy: Yeah I need some help.
Operator: What’s the matter?
Boy: With my math.
Operator: With your mouth?
Boy: No with my math. I have to do it. Will you help me?
Operator: Sure. Where do you live?
Boy: No with my math.
Operator: Yeah I know. Where do you live though?
Boy: No, I want you to talk to me on the phone.
Operator: No I can’t do that. I can send someone else to help you.
Operator: What kind of math do you have that you need help with?
Boy: I have take aways.
Operator: Oh you have to do the take aways.
Operator: Alright, what’s the problem? …
As the 1:34 min call goes on
Operator: No. How old are you?
Boy: I’m only 4.
The best part is when the mom cottons-on to what her child is up to, also on the recording and transcript:
Woman: Johnny what do you think you’re doing?!
Boy: The policeman is helping me with my math.
Woman: What did I tell you about going on the phone?
Operator: It’s the mother…
Boy: You said if I need help to call somebody.
Woman: I didn’t mean the police. (click)
No one was charged in that case or yesterday's bedtime-resistant boy.
When I mentioned the math help incident to Lt. Bonanca he laughed and said, “I couldda used that kind of help when I was a kid. I was terrible at math. That’s why I joined the police force. Seriously though, parents need to explain to their kids about what help 911 is really for.”
The rhyme we used in our house was, “911 is not for fun.” I suppose that with kids using it to try and keep parents in line we might try, “Dial 911 to get out of a chore and you will end up doing many more.”