Bogus 911 calls add to response times

Bogus 911 calls add to response times
TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- When you call 911, you expect to get a speedy answer from an operator.

But more than half of calls that come into our dispatch centers are not for actual emergencies.

This can add precious seconds to the clock while operators deal with those calls.

What sounds like a standard 911 call...

"911, what's your emergency?"
"I need an ambulance!"

...turns into just another one of thousands of bogus calls.

"It's my dog, it's a chihuahua. Her collar is in her mouth, she's choking!"
"You need an ambulance for your chihuahua?"

As many as 70 percent of calls that come through the dispatch center are not legitimate. No emergency services are needed.

Amel Sogorovic remembers pranking 911 when he was a kid.

"The police officers educated me when they came to my door," he says.

His calls probably sounded like this little boy's.

"Excuse me, can I have the cops please?"
"What's your emergency?"
"A girl names Ayesa is - she said she's gonna tell everyone in the school that I have a girlfriend and I don't actually have a girlfriend."

In this case, the call center spoke to the boy's mom to let her know the call was made.

Call center supervisors are encouraged there was a drop year to year in bogus calls. But when only about 30 percent of the calls to 911 are real, the problem is still massive.

Amel agrees educating people on when to use 911 helps, but he thinks there could be stricter discipline for people like this.

"What's your emergency?"
"I'm confused, did the clocks go back last night?"

Or...

"Our dog got lost and it got found by these people, and they're saying it's not our dog."

Amel says, "If it's an honest mistake, I think it should be let go, but if it's something where you can tell they're older and that it's an issue, maybe there should be a small fine for it."

It's not something dispatchers say is coming, but might help hang up on the bogus calls.

Dispatch supervisors say more people make these bogus calls from cell phones. It makes them harder to track.

Benton County dispatch recently saved money by cutting the amount of call supervisors by three. This allowed them to pump more money into public education on 911.