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911: Emergency or not?

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Albany's 911 Emergency call center handle close to 400 calls a day, many of them from people with their life in jeopardy. But many of them are not emergencies, just a waste of time.

Every dispatcher we talked with said non-emergency calls are a daily problem. Dispatchers have to make sure those calls don't delay them from handling real emergencies, where lives are on the line.

Albany 911 Emergency dispatchers say it's part of their job every day.

One caller dialed 911 and said:  "I just want to know if the roads are clear to go to church this morning."

" Yes, we have heard it all," Dispatcher Marquette Harvey said.

Another caller told called the emergency line to say: "Well, I was actually calling to see if they will get keys. I'm locked out of my vehicle..."

 "I'd say five percent of the calls we get could be called strange and unusual," Dispatcher Marquis White said.

Everyday calls from people who think they have an emergency, like the woman who thought she was trapped in her car because the battery was dead and her door lock button would not work.

Communications Facilitator Charlotte Floyd said "She was starting to hyperventilate and obviously in a panic mode. And the operator is telling her to look over her shoulder, and can you see your door lock."

One person called 911 to ask:  "Could you tell me how to trace a restricted phone call?"

Dispatcher Marquette Harvey remembered another memorable non emergency call she received "A female called and said that a live chicken was in her backyard."

Dispatcher says: "I understand ma'am, but this is our emergency line. Can you please call our non emergency line, and we'll be more than happy to assist you."

Dispatchers are trained to direct non emergency calls to another line, and keep them clear for real emergencies.

Another caller to 911 said: "Yea, Somebody stole my candy bar from me."

When to operator asked about it, the caller said,  "Somebody stole my candy bar," and laughed.

Mistakes they understand. Joke calls to 911 are a crime.

Floyd said "Misuse and abuse of the 911 system is a class 1 misdemeanor, and it is punishable by up to a year in jail."

Each time the phone rings Dispatchers never know if it's a real emergency or not.

Another Actual 911 Call: "Somebody is breaking into my apartment."

And ready to send help where needed immediately.

Now every 911 center across South Georgia gets these same types of non-emergency calls every day.

And they have alternate phone lines that you can call for help. Here in Albany that phone number is 229-431-2132. You can check the phone book in your community for the same type of non emergency lines there.

Albany and Dougherty County Commissioners are working on installing a 311 system to answer calls and questions, to divert some of those calls off the 911 system.  But are still working on budget figures to see when it can start.

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