When 911 Calls You

male operator

About five years ago, I connected with Donald O’Connor on Twitter. Since then we have created a friendship founded on our shared interest and passion in sales and communication. Earlier this year, when he attended one of my monthly webinars, I discovered his wealth of great stories. While this one is a “back in the day” tale of tracking down a phone number, it serves as an excellent reminder that phone calls do save lives!

When you work as an inbound customer services representative you can never know what kind of call you’ll be answering. Imagine my surprise when the call came to me from … 911!

On November 1, many years ago, I received a call from a dispatcher with the Owen Sound City Police. The tone of her voice demanded my attention. The speed of her conversation was calculated and purposeful. I gave her my full attention. She described the reason for her call and how it came about.

A BCTEL operator had recently transferred a distressed caller to the Hamilton-Wentworth Police. The female caller had threatened to take her life. Once connected to the Hamilton-Wentworth Police, the caller provided her telephone number and then immediately disconnected the call.

Since the number given was not in Hamilton-Wentworth, a brief search was done and a call was made to the Owen Sound City Police where the information about the woman in distress was quickly delivered.

However, the Owen Sound City Police could not retrieve the caller’s address based on the phone number they were given. Why? The caller, a Bell Canada customer, had a non-published phone number. The police dispatcher quickly dialled 310-BELL and was connected to me. 

There were rules about unpublished numbers, governed by the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC), that protected an individual’s privacy. I set them aside. It only took me a nanosecond to give the dispatcher the much-needed address. She hung up immediately.

I wrote up an incident report and delivered it to my supervisor. Days went by and nothing was said to me about the incident or my actions. Then, on November 10, I arrived at work and had a voice mail message waiting for me. It was from the police dispatcher. The young woman had been found, taken to hospital and been released. She had asked that the police contact me and thank me for assisting them in finding her.

You just never know what opportunities a phone call will bring into your life. 

Donald’s right; the phone delivers all kinds of opportunities. That’s why, at this time of year, I share my good fortune with two organizations that make sure everyone has access to the power of a phone call. For both these organizations, the pandemic has increased the need and demand for their services and support.

Red Bear Healing Home Society is a non-profit society registered with the Province of Nova Scotia (June 23, 2011) that assists people who are experiencing social and/or economic disadvantages in Nova Scotia. The Phone Lady supports the society’s Connect Voice Mail program, which provides a free phone number and voicemail to those experiencing poverty or homelessness. Participants can then be left messages for jobs, housing, health care, and so on.

Kids Help Phone provides anonymous and confidential professional counselling, referrals and information to Canadian youth aged 5 to 20. In 1992, Kids Help Phone chose to open its second regional office in Atlantic Canada. Today, as a community-based charity with a strong local presence, Kids Help Phone has a team of dedicated staff, volunteers, donors, and partners in Atlantic Canada who work tirelessly to support kids in the province as they develop resilience and reach their potential — creating stronger, healthier communities for everyone. Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only 24/7 professional counselling and information service supporting young people’s mental health and well-being.

My gratitude to you, my readers and my wishes to you, your loved ones and your colleagues for a very peaceful, joyful, rejuvenating holiday season. I’ll be enjoying some extra sleep, reading great fiction, counting my blessings and … looking forward to embracing whatever 2021 has to offer. Merry Christmas!

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What's The Phone Lady doing?


  • Remote learning experiences + one-on-one coaching for women entrepreneurs (More info about this three-year program here.)
  • Team and individual coaching with a national moving company to refine their sales process
  • Remote half-day training for provincial tourism representatives
  • Remote seven-part sales training program for US-based SaaS
  • Remote webinar on accounts receivable communication for industrial-services company
  • Remote webinar on validation to college students in entrepreneur program
  • In-person workshop on job search skills for women in the trades
  • Remote half-day webinar on written correspondence to customers

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