Calling 911 For Emergencies Only

By: Shannon Houser
By: Shannon Houser

Dispatchers are getting the word out about the importance of taking advantage of information lines, instead of calling 911 for non-emergencies.

"Road conditions if it's snowing. Calls about if school's cancelled. Calls about trick or treat times at Halloween, homecoming parades, fireworks on the fourth of July," Wood County Dispatcher, Douglas Moore describes calls he receives.

"People run out of minutes on their cells phones that wanted Chinese food and they couldn't call a Chinese restaurant, so they asked us if we would order their food," describes dispatcher, Jillian McCauley.

These aren't prank calls. These are actual 911 calls, and they're clogging up emergency lines in Wood County.

"We have five dispatchers at a time and six 911 lines, so it ties up one dispatcher from answering other incoming calls when someone might have a life or death situation," Moore says.

Dispatchers are urging people in the valley to use information lines like 211 and 511 instead of calling 911 for non-emergencies.

"The people at the 211 and 511 are going to have more direct resources. Of course, they're not going to be tying up a 911 line," Moore adds.

A 911 line that could mean life or death for someone with a real emergency.

"Every call that comes in that's a non-emergency takes the dispatchers away from potential calls coming in that are an emergency. It could be your family member, it could be my family member or a friend that's being effected. Seconds do count when there's an emergency," explains Wood County 911 Director, Randy Lowe.

While there's no statistics showing these lines have any effect on the amount of calls 911 receives, dispatchers say it seems people aren't taking enough advantage of the info lines.

"Since the 511 it's been about the same amount of calls. No increase or decrease. It's stayed steady," Moore explains.

Of course dispatchers don't want to discourage people from calling 911 during an emergency, but what's considered an emergency is what many ignore.

"Anytime life or property is in danger. If you need the police to respond to a crime that's recently happened, any type of medical issue," Moore says.

511 is the road condition information line. 211 is for community information.

Parkersburg is also in the works for a 311 line, which would be for updates during emergency situations.

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