A Joke Too Far

or “How to Create a Major Multi-Jurisdictional Homeland Security Incident Without Even Trying.”

Step 1: Find a location interesting to law enforcement such as a port or air terminal. For our purposes, we’ll use a small local harbor. Our harbor doesn’t have much shipping, but it does have day tours, fishing boats, and lots of small pleasure craft. It falls under the jurisdiction of multiple police departments and small harbor patrols from the towns which surround it, as well as the US Coast Guard. The local patrols spend most of their time watching for DUIs and towing clueless tourists from the tidal mud.  They don’t have many large incidents.

Step 2: Find a coworker who works part time for one of the 18 or so agencies mentioned above. Catch him near the end of a long day of BLS transfer work, and tell him about how he’s missing The Big One out on his harbor. Play up a story about a burning tour boat with lots of rescues being made.

Step 3: Watch him call his boss to get a situation report and offer his services just as soon as he can get free from his Dialysis & Discharges shift.

This is where the joke should end.  Everyone gets a good laugh at said coworker’s expense, and he’ll get his revenge next time around.


Step 4: Unbeknownst to you, said boss is a bit insecure about interagency communication. He will start making phone calls, wanting to know why no one told him about the major incident unfolding in HIS harbor. Soon boats from all 18 agencies will hit the water, looking for a disaster which doesn’t exist and being very p*ssed at the other 17 agencies for not notifying them.


Fortunately this one was caught before any boats were launched, but there were lots of ruffled feathers, a few written apologies, and a letter or two in people’s files.

It was pretty funny, though. The take-home lesson is to let the boss in on the joke BEFORE you unleash it on your unsuspecting coworker.

(Disclaimer: of course I don’t advocate wasting any agency’s time. Thankfully this one was caught before it reached critical mass. And I wasn’t involved.)


  1. Jeremiah Bush

    Great story Mac! kinda reminds me of the time a concerned citizen reported a person lost in the river. Five agencies and three helicopters later, that red plastic gas can was lucky to be found.

  2. The Grumpy Dispatcher

    The funny factor far outweighs everything else… even with the insecure boss angle. Probably worth the letter in the file just to watch it all happen. And who knows, maybe interagency communications will get a boost due to the fallout from this gig.