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The Cost of Non Emergency Calls

Updated: Wednesday, May 7 2014, 11:00 AM CDT

Fire, police, and medical.  For years, we've all been drilled to call 911 when we have an emergency. 

But some people call for this... "911 what's the address of the emergency?"  Is it 45 mph from taylorville to willie?  Uhmm.."

That is an actual call taken by 9-1-1 dispatchers. 

We asked average citizens what they think, whether they consider that an emergency.

"No that's not an emergency - I'm sorry - (laughing).   Surprised? Yeah, that's sort of crazy," said Linda Carpenter of Augusta, Illinois.

It's ridiculous calls like this one that are handled by 9-1-1 dispatchers in Christian County on five incoming lines. 

Dispatchers also control seven administrative lines for the sheriff's department,  seven days a week, 24 hours a day. 

That's about 22-thousand calls a year. 

Among those thousands of calls are calls like this one. "911 what's the address of your emergency?  I don't know her address, but I'm turning my kids mom in, because she lets people smoke in her car around my one-year-old and then also in her house.  Her house is just caked with smoke." 

That is yet another example of an actual call made to 9-1-1.

"There is a difference between an emergency and calling social services," said Jeremy Turner of Chicago, Illinois.

These are not emergencies, but thousands of 911 callers think otherwise.

"We get a lot of calls wanting us to look up numbers for the public like directory assistance.  And we also get calls from people looking for transportation to a doctor's office or a taxi ride," said 911 Call Center Dispatch Administrator Mickie Ehrhardt.

So why do people think those type of calls to 9-1-1?  Well it is because everyone's perception of an emergency is different.

"They can call us.  We don't think its very serious, but to them it can be," said EMS Jennifer Jarman with Dunn's Ambulance Service located in Taylorville, Illinois.  

In this hub, 1 out of every 10 calls does not qualify as an emergency.

"We consider an emergency something that's going on, or in progress, in need of immediate assistance," said Ehrhardt.  

And once dispatched, first responders must act.

"We have an obligation to respond its our duty to do that," said Fire Chief Mike Crews with the City of Taylorville.

Seventeen firefighters in Taylorville handle nearly 1,300 calls a year on a budget already stretched thin.

Chief Crews said that the last thing he wants is for his crew to have to make a judgement call and choose between emergencies.

"If you are looking at 5 firefighters working on duty with two fire chief officers, there is just not a lot of folks to cut lose for those type of calls," said Chief Crews.  

"If our trunk lines fill up then it rolls over to a backup 911 call center in a different community," said Ehrhardt with the Christian County 9-1-1.

And while the dispatch center has a limited number of 9-1-1 lines, people wasting valuable seconds to call in non-emergencies, further delays the response times to those individuals who have true emergencies.

The Cost of Non Emergency Calls

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