12 Worst reasons people have dialed 999 for

Updated August 10, 2017

When an emergency strikes, a call to 999 brings police, ambulance or fire serves quickly to the scene. But not everyone can agree on what exactly constitutes an emergency. Some of the reasons people have dialled 999 will make you laugh -- even as they make you shudder.

Takeaway orders

A botched delivery can seem like the end of the world, but -- and this is very important to remember -- it isn't. This fact seems to have slipped the mind of the man who called Devon and Cornwall Police in 2009 to complain about his Chinese food delivery being 45 minutes late.

Power problems

A power failure can be scary, but it's usually over in a short time. A call to the electricity supplier would be a good place to start -- apparently, though, another 2009 caller disagreed. Instead, she dialled 999 to report the outage. In particular, she asked for advice on how long it would take the cake in her freezer to defrost.

Misbehaving children

Frustrated parents may sometimes feel the urge to call the law on their rambunctious children, but they don't actually do it. Most of them, anyway: one father did call the North Wales Constabulary in 2012, reporting that his son was refusing to stop playing video games and go to bed. It didn't seem like as much of an emergency to the police.

Aliens are among us!

Every year, 999 operators receive calls warning of an imminent alien invasion, or at least the presence of extraterrestrial spacecraft in the sky. Culprits have included searchlights from a nearby concert, low-flying aircraft, and on one occasion the moon.

Football madness

Football fans can get excited about the fortunes of their favourite teams, but what feels like a life-or-death situation isn't always. A Manchester United fan called 999 to demand the arrest of Sir Alex Ferguson following a disappointing result. The police didn't agree that 2-1 was a crime.

Hamburger horrors

When you're hungry, a delayed dinner can seem like an emergency, but you're not going to get the police to see it your way. In 2013, West Midlands Police released a recording of a man who called 999 to complain that staff at McDonald's wouldn't serve him. For some reason, the police didn't want to serve him either.

It's a social media emergency

You absolutely must update your Facebook status, but you can't remember your password. What do you do? Obviously, you dial 999, as one frustrated internet addict did in a call made public by West Midlands Police.

Medical drama

The police aren't the only ones who receive crazy calls. Some people also seem to have strange ideas about what constitutes a medical emergency -- like the caller who dialled 999 to ask the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service for help with a ring that was stuck tight on a finger.

A nosebleed

They're irritating, they're messy, and everyone gets them from time to time -- but to some people nosebleeds seem to be a bigger concern. A 2011 999 call asked for an ambulance to help stop a "really bad" nosebleed.

The animal kingdom

Emergency services are sometimes called out to deal with non-human criminals, although some are more dangerous than others. Less-serious 999 calls have included reports of a squirrel in the caller's kitchen and a spider on a pillow.

Four-legged friends

Just as callers are sometimes worried about animals, sometimes they're worried on behalf of them. For instance, a caller to North West Ambulance Service in 2012 asked for an emergency medical response to take a dog's temperature.

For laughs

Sadly, not all frivolous 999 calls are simple overreactions. Some are intentional pranks, like the calls to Manchester's police service reporting a marmalade theft in 2012. Even as police services try to get citizens to use 101 for non-emergency numbers, there are still some who get short-lived enjoyment out of wasting resources -- and possibly even endangering lives.

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About the Author

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.