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Old July 15, 2013, 10:57 PM   #1
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Did I do the right thing?

Today, sitting on my back porch, I saw huge vertical clouds. It was late at night and they looked like smoke. I also smelled burning wood (I now think it was a neighbor cooking something over a wood fire). I called the local fire department dispatch and they came out, took a look at what I was talking about, and told me it was just a cloud formation that happened to look like smoke and that smoke of that size would mean enough fire to light up the sky. They still went to take a look at it.

I understand this isn't firearms related (and would understand it being closed), but as it relates to public safety officials in general -- cops, firefighters, EMTs -- when do you call when you have a hunch? I personally am terrified of the stories of people getting raped while everyone watched thinking somebody else would call 911. People there said they didn't want to be a part of it and figured somebody else would call, and I heard the same responses from my family. I want to break that trend of complacency because I know it kills.

But, at the same time, calling at the drop of every leaf takes valuable people out of commission when they could be dealing with something that is actually life threatening.

Where is the middle ground? How much fact vs. hunch do you balance personally when deciding whether or not to call authorities?
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Old July 15, 2013, 11:34 PM   #2
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There is no right or wrong answer, its a personal thing based on your experiences in life.... if your uncertain and concerned enough to call 911, then you made the right choice regardless of the outcome.
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Old July 15, 2013, 11:56 PM   #3
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Thank you for your answer.

I should point out that I didn't call 911, but the local non-emergency number for the fire and rescue department.

They said that they would rather someone call a bunch of times for a false alarm than people ignore it, but I wonder where that line is. He also said that during hot summer nights, when it goes from 105 degrees to a 2 minute rain, steam rises off the houses and they get hundreds of calls every summer about "house fires" that are really nothing.
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Old July 15, 2013, 11:59 PM   #4
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Better safe than sorry if you ask me. If you're legitimately concerned (and not an overly paranoid person in general) then there's nothing wrong with making the call IMO. I wouldn't worry about bothering them or wasting resources or whatever. It's their job. And again, better safe than sorry. Better to report nothing than to not report something.
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Old July 16, 2013, 07:38 AM   #5
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Better safe than sorry.
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Old July 16, 2013, 08:06 AM   #6
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Safe is always better than sorry.
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Old July 16, 2013, 08:16 AM   #7
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In the fire service, this type of call would be referred to as a "good intent call."
As a career firefighter (now retired), I've probably responded to over 100 of these in my 31+ years on the job. There's no problem with this type of call -- we'd rather go to a hundred of these than 1 serious incident someone ignored.
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Old July 16, 2013, 09:31 AM   #8
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Pretty much any time I've called the non-emergency line (police or fire) about something, they've told me to call back on 911. They take things seriously, and they'd much rather people call than not.

I think we have a consensus here...
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