We’ve learned to call 911 in an emergency since kindergarten. It seems simple enough; plenty of people have called the number before and saved lives.

Often, though, it can be difficult to distinguish between what is an actual emergency and what is not. When is it appropriate to use this emergency number? The obvious answers would be during a robbery, when someone is attempting to harm you, when someone becomes significantly injured and so on. Sometimes, though, the answer to this question is surprisingly unclear.

The official webpage for 911 describes an emergency as “any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police, fire department or ambulance.” The page says to call in the case of such an emergency.

This description seems valid, straightforward and similar to what we have learned growing up.

Recently, though, a mother in Florida was denied emergency help from 911 for something that sounds like a completely valid reason to call. The woman had accidentally locked her child and keys in the car. It was hot outside, and she panicked.

I was surprised to learn that what I would consider an emergency is not necessarily true to the call receivers at the 911 emergency center.

Everyone has heard the stories of children overheating because their parents left them locked in the car. These parents are often prosecuted and sent to prison. The idea that this Florida mother was denied help for something that not only could send her to jail, but also potentially kill her child, is insane.

I understand that some people call 911 too much and for the wrong reasons. I have heard multiple news stories of women calling the number to demand an immediate divorce, stoners calling 911 to say “Hey,” and people calling to complain about a restaurant’s bad service.

This is obviously not using the emergency service in a responsible way. People who are this clueless deserve to be reprimanded for being immature and thoughtless. But this does not mean that people who call in a real emergency should be denied service.

Also, when children or teenagers call 911 they are often denied help by operators who believe they are just playing a prank or confused. This is utterly ridiculous. The emergency center should always send help if there is any suspicion of an emergency.

No one, no matter how old, should be turned away when calling for help. The number is there for a reason; everyone should be able to benefit from it.

Calling 911 in an emergency is a wonderful system that has saved numerous lives in the United States, but it has many flaws also. It is appalling to think that anyone would be denied help in an emergency. It does happen though, and it needs to change.



  1. What insight this young lady has…..no bad restaurant calls, nor for divorces, but what constitutes an EMERGENCY for one person might not for another. Let the police, EMTS, etc make that call, not an operator who is not on the scene. This young person hit it on the nail. Thanks

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