Wasting Emergency Time

Wasting Emergency Time

Every single day the Wichita Falls Police Department's Communication Center receives numerous false 911 calls.

Last year, dispatchers received more than 45,000 non-emergency calls. "You never know what you may walk into, you just have to be prepared for it," said Carla Turner, Wichita Falls Police Department Communications Supervisor. For twelve hours each day, dispatchers answer thousands of calls, some emergencies and other false calls.

"It's kind of hard for dispatchers. They pick up the phone, they can't tell if someone's just walking with the phone or maybe a child's playing with the phone," said Turner. "There are other lines that may be ringing that may actually be an emergency, or someone may need police, fire or ambulance."

Turner told Newschannel 6 that the most common call they receive are pocket dials from cell phones. "The touch phones are so sensitive. So, people don't even know when they're calling," said Turner.

She said that's not the only calls they receive. Often times, elderly in the community may accidentally call for other services such as a cab, 411 or even 211. "We also get abandoned calls, where people actually realize they're calling 911 and when they realize what they've done, they hang up their phone quickly," said Turner.

No matter if the person who called meant to dial 911 or not, dispatchers are required by law to verify and see if it is an emergency. Turner said the process of returning 911 calls on average takes about two minutes each and sometimes longer if the caller does not answer and they have to leave a voicemail.

While it may not seem like a lot of time, dispatchers told us, on average they receive more than one hundred non-emergency calls a day and around 45,000 calls a year. Newschannel 6 found out if dispatchers spend an average of two minutes, returning unresponsive 911 calls, around 90,000 minutes, 1,300 hours and almost 62 days out of their year is wasted returning those non-emergency calls.

Jimmie Johnson, Newschannel 6