Unusual 911 calls flooded FDNY during blizzard
One caller stubbed his toe and told EMTs 'it's been hurting for over an hour'
By Ginger Adams Otis and Heather Haddon
The New York Post
NEW YORK — What is your emergency? My kid didn't do his homework!
Hundreds of crackpot callers tied up overworked EMS units and swamped the 911 system with frivolous calls during the Christmas-weekend blizzard and its snowy aftermath, worsening a deadly backlog of 1,300 jobs, medics told The Post.
A druggie from Brooklyn dialed the emergency operator Monday at 8 a.m., the height of post-storm chaos, to report difficulty breathing — prompting dispatchers to code it as a critical call.
What he really wanted was for paramedics to transport him down impassable streets to his preferred Flatbush methadone clinic.
Another EMS unit got called to a family home in Brooklyn for a sick kid — but it turned out the parents' primary complaint was that their son wouldn't do his homework. They hoped the EMTs could force him to finish it.
Other crazy calls included one from a Bronx man with stomach pains who eventually admitted to medics that "he'd eaten a pizza with everything on it about 20 minutes ago," said one EMT. The patient needed antacids.
One Brooklyn EMS crew got bogged down by a mom who dialed 911 at about 10 p.m. Sunday to report that her 2-year-old daughter was bleeding from the mouth.
Paramedics raced to the scene to discover the tiny tot had taken a minor tumble and suffered a cut lip.
A Staten Island resident waiting two hours for a bus called 911 because "he was freezing," an EMS worker said.
Crews showed up to the stop on Bradley Avenue, and the man wanted to sit in the ambulance and warm up, the worker said. Crews said they could only take him to a hospital, but he refused.
Another caller stubbed his toe and told EMTs "it's been hurting for over an hour."
There was even a call for difficulty breathing that turned out to be a young Brooklynite who had a stuffy nose.
"He kept complaining to us that he could only breathe out of one nostril," said an EMT, who estimated about 25 percent of the 911 calls he handled over the three days of the storm were "for absolute b.s."
Frank Dwyer, a spokesman for the FDNY, which runs the EMS system, says it's hard for dispatchers to assess a person's true medical condition over the phone.
"When you have that many calls, not every one is going to be cardiac arrest," he acknowledged. "But it's tough for us to say beforehand that that person should stay home."
A backlog of emergency calls built up overnight on Sunday, Dec. 26, as nearly two feet of snow got dumped on the city, and by the following morning city officials were begging residents to reserve 911 for life-threatening situations.
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