Region 8 Dispatchers Better Safe Then Sorry

April 11, 2006 – Posted at 4:39 p.m. CST

JONESBORO, AR -- When a 6-year-old Detroit boy called 911 after his mother collapsed, an operator told him he shouldn't be playing on the phone. His mother died when no help arrived and the boy's family has now filed a multi-million dollar wrongful death lawsuit against the city.

In a separate incident, also in Detroit , a woman who called 911 after being shot in the head has filed a lawsuit when dispatchers failed to believe her claims.

But how seriously do 911 dispatchers in Region 8 respond to calls for help?

It's true that out of the 1700 calls made to Craighead County 's 911 Center, only 40% are legitimate emergencies.

"We get teenagers who call and try to prank us. Sort of a catch me if you can, you don't know where I am at, that sort of thing," said Bob Andrews, E-911 Communications Director, "We usually do get them."

Making a fake 911 call can be considered interfering with government operations and harassing communications, or a Class "A" Misdemeanor. But dispatchers would rather be safe then sorry.

"We have callers coming from the youngest to the elderly and you may not understand them or communicate well with them," said Andrews, "But we go ahead and send someone to make sure we got it covered."

Training keeps dispatchers on their feet during stressful situations.

"We work to get them to ask the pertinent questions to see if it's real or not. We try to have the dispatcher understand what the caller needs. Ask the right questions and go from there and send assistance," said Andrews, "Our philosophy is kind of like the military. If you are in doubt, you salute. If you are in doubt here, go ahead and send someone. We want to make sure we get ourselves covered. Send assistance if you think it's a joke or not, because we don't know."

Craighead County is hosting advanced training classes next month for area dispatchers. They will learn questioning techniques and stress management.