SPECIAL REPORT: 911 Emergency

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – 911. The numbers you dial to save the life of you or your loved ones. But Augusta’s 911 fields thousands of calls a year that are not emergencies. And those calls get in the way when lives are on the line.

DISPATCHER: In reference to an assault on a six year old.

911 CALL: “He was grabbing her by the neck that’s why I’m calling.”

These are the pros at Augusta 911 taking your call to send help to your emergency.

On average, people call 911 in Augusta 1,000 times a day.

“Some are reporting a traffic accident, someone could have been hit by a vehicle…could be someone having a medical emergency.” says 911 Director, Daniel Dunlap.

Those are real life and death situations that are called in around the clock to 911.

911 CALL: “I’ve been having chest pains.”

Dunlap tells me, “These are definitely things they have to deal with every day.”

But many of the calls coming to 911 are not real emergencies, really far from it. Like these…

911 CALL: “I need a police to meet my daughter, she ran out of gas and take her some gas.”

DISPATCHER: “Okay the Fire Department doesn’t come out for cats struck in a tree.”

If you work in 911, you’ve answered one of these non emergency calls.

“A cat struck up in a tree or a child threw their ball or a frisbee on the roof,” recalls Assistant 911 Director, Sanita Cheatham

Sometimes we get calls where they need numbers to somewhere else you know marshals department code enforcement something like that,” one dispatcher tells me.

“They call for different things like court dates, ‘can I ask you a question real fast my landlord is trying to put me out’. Those kind of emergency non-emergency things”

Dunlap says, “They may answer one of those non emergency calls and the next call they receive is someone who’s saying their baby is not breathing.”

911 CALL: “It’s my daughter she can’t breathe she’s passing out and stuff.

Cheatham says, “It does impact us especially on our 911 lines we only have so many lines on our consoles.”

When a call comes into 911, dispatchers don’t know when they pick up if it’s a real big- time emergency, where time is off the essence.

911 CALL: “I have a kitchen fire in my house!”

Or if not serious.

DISPATCHER: “She’s calling in reference to an assault that happened yesterday with another tenet”

“If everybody is calling 911,” Cheatham says, “the true emergencies may not be able to come through.”

“If we’re having to deal with a non emergency situation, when someone’s trying to call in with their true emergency, there’s the potential that we might not be able to answer that emergency as quickly as we could,” says Dunlap.

And that’s scary in a business where there are lives on the line.

“They don’t need to be over taxed or burdened with non emergency calls when we have emergencies going on all the time,” says Dunlap.

Director Dunlap also says people “pocket dialing” 911 is a problem.

Also, old cell phones that have no service can still dial 911. A lot of times parents give them to kids to play with and those kids end up dialing 911.

For a list of numbers to call in non-emergency situations, CLICK HERE.

Photographer Troy Robinson

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