What is an emergency?

I work as a project manager for a web development company.  I've been helping companies, non-profits, and individuals develop a web presence for many years.  Although the vast majority of our clients are super-nice and exceedingly patient and understanding, I've noticed over the years that some folks have a bit of trouble discerning an emergency from a non-emergency.  Perceived emergencies crop up so often that anything short of "My skull just cracked open! Help!" fails to elicit much of a response from me. I run into this with the rescue as well - every situation is URGENT URGENT URGENT! In my mind, unless you are a cardiac surgeon and you are clutching a cooler containing a human heart, and you can't install that heart in a dying patient because there is a period on your website that is really supposed to be a comma, then it's really not a emergency.

One of my clients runs an assisted living facility. A couple times a year, the director asks me to come to her office to make changes to the website. Our web-based software actually allows our clients to manage their own content but if someone wants to pay us to make changes, we are fine with that. This particular client is extremely nice and I don't mind driving to the facility and working on the site for her. Anyway, I was there two weeks ago and as I sat in front of the computer in her office, I noticed that a gentleman outside the door was yelling, "HELP!" repeatedly.

"Oh, Gene," said my client.  "How about I get you a cookie and some coffee?"  She went to the kitchen and got him some coffee and a frosted cookie. He was quiet for a bit (I would shut up for a cookie, too).  Then he started again. "Help!"  It's kind of sad, really. Gene was once a school administrator and now he's in an obvious state of decline. I'm glad he has nice people to care for him.

About a week later, I went back to the assisted living facility to tie up some loose ends with the website. Gene wheeled himself into the room and made eye contact with me. I smiled at him.  "Help!" he yelled.  I'm pretty sure that one day Gene is going to fall out of bed, yell for help, and everyone will just say. "Oh, that Gene. Does he want a cookie?"

I don't think this will help Gene, but I've prepared these helpful flow charts to help everyone understand what is and is not an emergency.  You know me - I am nothing if not helpful!



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