Cell Phones and 911

By: Melissa Reynolds
By: Melissa Reynolds

You could be on the other end of the phone and have no idea who's calling. That's the case in 70 percent of wireless 911 calls.

"You're continuously answering the phone and there's no one there to talk to there's no emergency," Lt. Sam Sencindiver says.

That's because with many phones you just have to hit one button and it calls 911.

"We hear people walking up and down the mall, we hear em’ singing, we hear kids in the playground playing," Lt. Sencindiver says.

That's not the only problem dispatchers face with wireless callers.

"The biggest problem we have is we don't have an exact address whereas if they pick up their home phone we're going to get the address," Sencindiver says.

Harrisonburg is working on catching the technology up. There's three phases of wireless 911. Some calls are still in the first phase, which only routes the call to the nearest EOC with no identifying information. The second phase gives the phone number and cell tower, which is better, but could still be a large area. Coming next spring, the third phase will give the exact location of the caller.

Also, the number of calls per accident has jumped dramatically.

"With everybody having a cell phone everybody calls it in and that ties both of us up answering calls and we're not able to turn around and dispatch the call out," Lt. Sencindiver says.

The dispatchers don't want you to stop calling. Just use it wisely and if you can turn your key guard off so you don't accidentally call.

Harrisonburg will be updating its entire 911 system at the first of the year.

50 North Main Street Harrisonburg, VA 22801 540-433-9191 - Switchboard 540-433- 4028 - Fax 540-433-2700 - News Fax

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