Part 2 of 2
By IVY HERRON
To properly report information about an emergency or crime, people need to be aware of "911 etiquette" to ensure the situation is handled as quickly and efficiently as possible, according to 911 Director John Turner.
"(Misuse of 911) isn't just a Clay County problem, it happens around the nation every day," Turner said. "People need to remember that 911 service is designed for emergency use only."
The centralized communication center for Clay County's 911 service is located at the Clay County Justice Center. It is an invaluable tool for the various law enforcement, fire, rescue and medical agencies in the county that speeds response times during emergencies.
"If there's an emergency or a crime happening, people need to call," Sheriff Mike Heaton said. "People should not use the 911service for non-emergency situations."
Lately dispatchers have experienced problems with people misusing the system, which has prompted authorities to remind the public of "911 etiquette."
Only those individuals who need immediate help should call 911. People experiencing a medical or fire emergency or a crime in progress should call for immediate emergency assistance. Authorities also encourage reports of criminal or suspicious activity in progress by the public to 911 dispatchers.
All other calls should be made to the non-emergency numbers of the Clay County Sheriff's Department (446-2535) or the Brazil City Police Department (446-2211). Both departments have dispatchers available 24 hours a day.
"This is a service with a very specific purpose: emergencies," Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton said. "When someone calls for a non-emergency it delays providing emergency assistance to someone who really needs it."
Dispatchers will request all non-emergency calls to 911 to hang up and call the business line of the appropriate department to clear lines for emergency calls. (When calls flood the 911 system, whether non-emergency or emergency, they are rolled over to Sullivan dispatchers, who transfer the information back to Clay County, slowing down crucial response time.)
When reporting an actual emergency or crime to 911 dispatchers, a caller needs to remain calm and give clear and accurate details about the type of situation, such as location, time the incident occurred, if there are any injuries and/or any property damage that has occurred.
If reporting a crime while still in progress or a threat of danger, dispatchers could ask a caller to remain on the line to relay up-to-date information to responding personnel.
Callers should be prepared to confirm their name, the address and the telephone number they are calling from with the information appearing on a dispatcher's 911 system screen.
If a caller is using a cell phone -- some newer models now provide tracking information to 911 systems -- they should inform dispatchers if experiencing any connection problems because of location.
Heaton says that cell phone users need to be prepared to give information quickly in case the signal is lost.
"There are parts of the county were there are no cell phone signals and calls get dropped," he said. "It is the mission of emergency personnel to help people, which is why every 911 call is taken seriously, even the hang-ups and lost calls."
Officers respond to hang-ups and lost calls because the circumstances of why the person was disconnected is unknown.
"It could just be a child playing with the phone, or someone accidentally dialing 911 while programming a phone or it could be a real emergency," Heaton said. "If someone accidentally calls 911, don't hang up, stay on the line and explain the mistake to the dispatcher. That way we can respond to the real emergency calls."