Non-emergency calls partly to blame for 911 problems - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Non-emergency calls partly to blame for 911 problems

Two year-old Abby is okay today. But a seizure brought on by a fever recently caused quite a scare. Getting put on hold after dialing 911 didn't help.

"I got upset at that point cause this child is laying in the floor not knowing if she's in the world and I'm listening to a hold tone," says grandmother Meg Thomas.

Officials say it happens all the time and non-emergency calls are partly to blame. Here's some test from a recent frivolous call.

911 Operator: "911 emergency." "Do you need the police, fire, or ambulance?"
Caller: "I want the police."
911 Operator: "Okay, what's going on over there?"
Caller: "Well, I had some chicken on the stove and I , uh, gave one of the neighbors a piece and then went back to get my own piece and it, and it got gone." "So ain't that somebody who stole from me?"

Some callers realize they don't need emergency help.

911 Operator: "911 emergency." "Do you need police, fire, or an ambulance?"
Caller: "It's a non-emergency." "I just want to know, um, where to go if you're homeless?"
911 Operator: "Okay, you need to go to a shelter?"
Caller: "I've been looking in the yellow pages." "I don't see any." "What is it under?" "It's not listed under shelters."
911 Operator: "Hold on one second."
Caller: "Okay."

Police say education is the first step in stopping 911 abuse.

"It's bogging our system down," says MPD Director Larry Godwin. "Without a doubt, it's causing us some issues," he adds.

Meg Thomas just hopes those issues are addressed, for the sake of the public, including her grand-daughter.

"It's a service we pay for and there's got to be a way that this can work," says Thomas.

Many want to make sure helpful technology will be installed in the new 911 center soon to be under construction. Meantime, one city council member believes abusers should be arrested or fined. After all, calling 911 for a non-emergency is a misdemeanor in Tennessee. Memphis Police urge you to call 545-COPS for non-emergencies.

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