Greg Peck: Too many mistaken 911 calls in Rock County
I was having breakfast Wednesday with some retired friends when one admitted errantly calling 911 recently. A police officer soon appeared at his door to ask if everything was all right. My friend assured the officer everything was fine. The officer asked: Are you alone? My friend said his wife was in the shower. Go get her, the officer advised, because he needed to speak with her.
Been there, done that. A few years ago, I was home alone and working at my home computer and so absorbed in what I was doing that I grabbed the phone and started dialing as if I were at the office, where I must first punch “9” to get outside the building. I then hit a “1” for a long-distance call. Trouble is, I sort of double-clutched on the “1.” I was halfway through the call when I realized I'd misdialed and shuddered thinking I'd errantly started with 9-1-1.
What's worse, in a few minutes, the doorbell was ringing and the dog was barking because an officer was at the door. He requested to step inside to look around and make sure everything was OK. He needed to make sure I wasn't hiding some domestic dispute. Everything was indeed OK. It was embarrassing, however.
In our conversation Wednesday, another friend said, he has mistakenly called 911 several times through the years. Apparently, doing so with a cellphone isn't that rare.
Coincidentally, our reporting staff was touring the Rock County 911 Center on Thursday. I would have liked to join the tour but didn't have time. Gina Duwe was among reporters who did, however, and later tweeted: “Fascinating to see how it all works! Takes a talented, special group of people.”
Gina also tweeted that the 911 center fields about 1,000 calls per day, and 85 percent are from cellphones. The center takes about 7,000 hang-ups or errant “butt dials” annually. That's about 20 mistaken calls every day. That's a lot for authorities to respond to.
The good news, however, is that 911 operators are taking about 5 percent fewer trivial non-emergency type calls since the center started using a public service announcement this spring that features a music video in which country crooner Jamie Campbell repeatedly sings 757-22-44 to drill Rock County's non-emergency number into listeners' heads. Keep that number—757-22-44—in mind if you just have to know what time it is, what time trick-or-treating hours are or to report a neighbor's barking dog.
If 911 operators are busy fielding such calls, they can't promptly answer calls involving real emergencies.