A fire is raging; a man cuts off his arm with a chainsaw; a woman gives birth alone … Oliver Burkeman introduces six unpublished 999 transcripts, where the drama of an emergency call unfolds.
From The Guardian:
The extraordinary 999 transcripts reproduced here, with the consent of those involved, don't have much in common with each other: the five-year-old boy reporting his mother's epileptic fit, the woman giving birth at home alone, and the man whose neighbour has sliced his own arm off seem to share only their sense of urgency and panic. But all the conversations demonstrate how much is demanded of the call-takers. At a distance, and without being able to see what's going on, they often must explain to untrained strangers how to carry out life-saving medical procedures. At the same time, and no less importantly, they're frequently the caller's only human connection during the long, edgy minutes before the emergency crew arrives. “The first-aid instructions are scripted, but the bit you can't do from a script is the bit that actually gets the caller to follow your instructions,” says Mark Myers, a London ambulance service worker who writes a compulsively readable blog at Neenaw.co.uk. (Mark Myers is a pseudonym.) “We're trained with various techniques, but a lot of it's just intuition: what does this person need to hear? What's the thing that's going to get through to them?”
One thing that rarely seems to get through is the fact that help's already coming. “It's on the way,” the operator repeats to Steve Francis, in Telscombe Cliffs, as he struggles to stanch the bleeding where John Stirling's arm has been severed by a chainsaw. “It's only round the corner … it's just coming now.” The news seems to cause astonishment. “Yes. It's literally round the corner …”