Emergency services urge caution when dialing 911

Emergency services urge caution when dialing 911

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - 911 is the universal number to call when you have an emergency, but what happens when you dial 911 accidentally? That mistake is costing the city resources and is affecting 911 operators efficiency.

If you own a cell phone, you  probably accidentally dial numbers all the time. Including 911.

"Once a dispatcher gets a 911 call we're not allowed to put that call on hold. We have to fully address fully address and extinguish everything with that hang up."

In 2013, Richmond County's Emergency Services received 202,000 911 calls. Almost 38,000 of those callers hung up or disconnected after dialing 911. Dominick Nutter, Augusta's director of 911 emergency services, said immediately hanging up after dialing 911 before speaking with a dispatcher can hamper the city's resources because all 38,000 calls require follow-up investigations by communications personnel and in some cases, deputies.

"In the meantime, other 911 calls are still coming in. So it's an accident but it's actually tying up somebody and holding up a 911 call that might be critical," said Nutter.

So if you call 911 unintentionally, officials said it's best not to hang up.

"Stay on the line and actually talk to the 911 operator. Let them know everything's okay and talk to them because it closes out when we know that the scene is safe," Nutter told WFXG.

When dispatchers can't get in contact with the caller on a land line, a deputy is sent out to check on the situation.

"In any case, we have to take it like it's always an emergency happening because that's how we take every 911 call."

However, with mobile phones, if some sort of distress wasn't detected before the caller hangs up, the current response policy doesn't require operators to send law enforcement to check on the situation.

Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree and a few others are meeting on Tuesday to decide if they're going to change or keep the 911 response policy.

For more 911 do's and don'ts, click here.

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