Dispatchers at Valley Emergency Communications Center in Utah answer thousands of 911 calls every day, but in one week, they received 4,000 calls from just one number — and when they found out why, the serial caller was given a gift rather than jail time.
Every time the man called 911, there would be no answer to the dispatcher, and the caller would hang up. And because of the nature of their jobs — helping to respond to emergencies — dispatchers cannot assume the calls were mistakes. “Every time someone calls 911, we have to make a call, call them back, and try to make sure they’re okay,” says dispatcher Kari Bueno. But every time one of the dispatchers called the number back, no one would answer.
After getting so many phone calls from the same number, the dispatchers asked the police to help them out. Having someone call so frequently, after all, ties up lines and may prevent someone who truly needs help in a real emergency from getting through.
What they found out about the caller, though, was not what any of them expected.
The serial 911 caller was a 30-year-old man named David VanBibber, who has special needs and a love for music. He had been given an old cell phone that had the service disconnected, and he used it to listen to songs. However, even with the service disabled on the cell phone, the phone was still capable of making an emergency call to 911. And so when David would try to pull up songs on his cell phone, he was often calling 911 instead.
After finding out that the disabled phone could still dial 911, and that David had made 4,000 emergency calls in one week, his phone was taken away. When the dispatchers found out, they realized that David now had no way to play the music that he loved. “We wanted to find a way for him to do that without taking away [resources] from 911 dispatch,” Bueno says.
And so they all pooled their money together to buy their very regular caller his own iPod, with a touchscreen.
It was, after all, a win-win situation. David would be able to listen to his music, and the dispatchers would be able to focus again on calls dealing with real emergencies.
David was, of course, beyond thrilled with his early Christmas gift from his friends at the local dispatch office.
On top of the gift of the iPod, the dispatchers also surprised him with a $100 gift card to iTunes. David’s parents say this act of kindness is “simply amazing” and has touched not just their son, but the entire family.
One lady wasn’t as lucky as this young man. Click here to read about the granny who was arrested by the NYPD for calling 911 too many times to report drug use.
[Image via the Washington Times]