Non-emergency 911 calls are costing precious resources and possibly, lives

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When seconds count in an emergency, getting the help you need is crucial. When 911 dispatchers are busy handling calls that are not emergencies, though, it could mean life or death for someone else.

Fox59 took a deep look in to the problem of people who call 911 when it’s not a real emergency. The Marion County Sheriff’s office says they’ve received calls for everything from people whose toilet wouldn’t flush to someone who called 911 just to scream the word “dummy.”

“We understand, at the sheriff’s office, that some elderly people have nobody else to call at three in the morning if they do have, if you will, a plumbing emergency, but that’s not a 911 call,” said Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Dine.

Unfortunately, those types of calls do come in to the 911 center, too often. Calls from people complaining of a bad hair-do, rush hour traffic backing up or a kid playing with the phone and calling 911 are far too common. Dispatchers say, when that happens, and it’s a busy time, someone else’s true emergency may go in cue for the next available dispatcher, costing precious time.

“Or, in a worst case scenario, resources could be dispatched to a frivolous type run, and those resources need to be rerouted somewhere else for the true and actual emergency,” said Lt. Col. Dine.

The dispatch center in Marion County handles 1.3 million calls per year. Leaders say a vast majority of them are legitimate emergencies. But, the minutes spent on calls for non-emergencies do add up.

“We have a certain number of people to take the calls, we do the best with what we have, but, at the same time, we ask the community to work with us and sort out what should go to 911 and what should go to the non-emergency channels,” said Lt. Col. Dine.

The non-emergency line for Marion County dispatch is 317-327-3811.

Detectives will investigate some of the bogus calls, and, someone could be charged if it’s found to be a hoax.

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