Calling 911 with a pizza delivery order not an official way to secretly seek help
CLAIM: A post circulating on social media states: “If you need to call 911 but are scared to because of someone in the room, dial and ask for a pepperoni pizza. They will ask if you know you’re calling 911. Say yes, and continue pretending you’re making an order… . Dispatchers are trained to ask specific yes or no questions ... don’t hang up!”
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Dispatchers are not trained to interpret a takeout pizza order as a covert way of seeking emergency assistance.
THE FACTS: The claim has circulated on social media for several years. Christopher Carver, dispatch center operations director for the National Emergency Number Association, told The Associated Press in a statement that asking for a “pizza in emergency situations is not standard practice or procedure.”
Carver said a dispatcher would not hang up upon hearing a pizza order, they would ask more questions to determine what is going on. But, he said, there is no single nationwide rule regarding what to do if someone calls and orders pizza.
“Setting any expectations of secret phrases that will work with any 911 center is potentially very dangerous,” he said.
Carver suggested that if someone is unable to speak on the phone, they should text 911. He said that “people should make every effort to communicate their location to the 911 dispatcher.”
The idea of pretending to order a pizza as cover for calling police gained national attention after a 2015 Super Bowl public service ad by No More, an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence and sexual assault.
The ad opens inside a home with the sound of someone making a call. It is answered by a 911 operator who asks, “Where’s the emergency?” A woman gives her address and the dispatcher asks what’s going on. The woman orders a pizza, and the dispatcher questions whether the call is a joke. She continues attempting to place the order and finally the dispatcher asks whether she has an emergency or not. At that point, she is able to say yes. The dispatcher catches on and sends assistance. The ad ends with the message: “When It’s Hard to Talk. It’s Up to us to Listen.”
No More did not respond to requests for comment about the ad.
In 2014, Buzzfeed interviewed a dispatcher who detailed on the social network Reddit an emergency call that started with a pizza order and followed the scenario. Rossalyn Warren, a former Buzzfeed reporter who wrote the story, said she interviewed the dispatcher and another woman who said she used the same tactic.
Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536
This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.