In 2019, a woman calls 911 and pretends to order a pizza to report her abuser. Even two years later, her code inspires others who are unable to directly call emergency or support services. The dispatcher Tim Teneyck was confused by her pizza order at first, but he understood the emotion and fear in her voice.
“You see it on Facebook, but it’s not something that anybody has ever been trained for,” Teneyck said. “Other dispatchers that I’ve talked to would not have picked up on this. They’ve told me they wouldn’t have picked up on this.” 
Woman Calls 911 and Asks For Pizza
Here’s a transcript of the conversation.
Teneyck: Oregon 911
Caller: I would like to order a pizza at [address redacted].
Teneyck: You called 911 to order a pizza?
Caller: Uh, yeah. Apartment [redacted].
Teneyck: This is the wrong number to call for a pizza…
Caller: No, no, no. You’re not understanding.
Teneyck: I’m getting you now.
Although this code isn’t official for a domestic abuse call, Teneyck instinctively understood the situation. She didn’t sound intoxicated, and she insisted she had the right number. He asked the woman questions about the situation, and she found pizza-related answers to respond. 
Mr. Teneyck: Is the other guy still there?
Caller: Yep, I need a large pizza.
Mr. Teneyck: All right. How about medical, do you need medical?
Caller: No. With pepperoni.
After he hung up with the caller, Teneyck dispatched the police. “Alright, turn your sirens off before you get there. Caller ordered a pizza and agreed with everything I said. There’s domestic violence going on.”
“911 dispatchers handle these calls and don’t get the recognition for their work,” Teneyck said in an interview. “Someone else could’ve dropped this call, but this is nothing that any other dispatcher across the U.S. couldn’t have handled.” 
Why Did She Call?
At that time, the woman’s call to 911 saved herself and her mother. When her mother’s boyfriend, Simon Ray Lopez, 57, came home drunk, he punched her mother’s arm and pushed her around, threatening to hurt her. According to the police report, Lopex was reported for “domestic violence knowingly causing or attempting to cause physical harm to a family or household members.” He was also charged with “failure to appear.”
The 57-year-old woman claimed that he pushed her so hard “she fell into the wall behind her.” Meanwhile, Lopez “stated he did not put his hands on the victim, and he only wanted to go to bed.” He was arrested on a domestic violence charge.
Meanwhile, the chief of police, Mike Navarre, heard the dispatch as he drove home. After he investigated the call, he praised Teneyck for his quick-wittedness. “He utilized his training and his experience to recognize that a woman was in distress. We have no way of knowing what would have happened if she didn’t get through.”
Since this incident, domestic violence support groups have begun to teach this strategy. “Or they also teach not just pizza but Chinese food,” and when the “operator tells you that you have the wrong number, say ‘no,‘” Navarre said.
That’s not the only change this incident has caused. According to Navarre, the audio of this call is now included in the department’s dispatcher training. “A good dispatcher is going to recognize that this is a person who wants to talk and needs help. That is exactly what happened here,” he said. “Some dispatchers might hang up on this person, but it’s worth a try give it your best shot. That’s what she did, and it worked out extremely well.”
Not Standard Practice
However, this story could spread misconceptions that all dispatchers are trained for this ‘takeout order’ call. Christopher Carver, the dispatch center operations director for the National Emergency Number Association, warned that “pizza in emergency situations is not standard practice or procedure.” Additionally, “Setting any expectations of secret phrases that will work with any 911 center is potentially very dangerous.”
As he predicted, a social media post went viral telling people that if they need to call 911 in the presence of someone dangerous, ask for pepperoni pizza. “Dispatchers are trained to ask specific yes or no questions … don’t hang up!”
However, the Los Angeles Police Department shared this post with a warning: “LAPD Communications has seen this graphic circulating on various social media channels. This is false. Text to 911 is a much better option. Your exact location & the nature of your emergency is what’s needed to send the right resources.” Unfortunately, texting 911 isn’t available in all locations.  But Carver adds that dispatchers wouldn’t hang up on a caller, and it’s important for the callers to tell them their location.
- “US domestic abuse victim pretends to order pizza to alert 911.” BBC. November 22, 2019
- “911 caller pretends to order pizza to alert police of alleged domestic attacker.” CTV News. Jeremiah Rodriguez. November 25, 2019
- “Woman calls 911 to report domestic violence allegation under the guise of pizza order.” CNN. Taylor Romine. November 24, 2019
- “Ohio woman who called 911 for pizza was really reporting domestic violence against her mom.” NBC News. Elisha Fieldstadt. November 22, 2019