Comm CenterInside the cool, darkened room behind one-way tinted glass, three deputies sit in front of a bank of monitors answering the calls that come into the station. A visit to the communications center Thursday at noon was typical, Roberts said. There were seven emergencies reported on the 911 phone line Thursday morning — for calls such as traffic collisions and domestic disputes wherein “someone’s life is in danger,” she said. And, although the dispatchers acknowledged most people understand and respect the 911 emergency system, they each point to disappointing horror stories of phoned-in abuses of the system over the years. “The most common (phone abuse) is people calling 911 because they’re stuck in the McDonald’s Drive-Through,” said Law Enforcement Technician Julie Ibrahim. “You name it, we’ve gotten a call on it.” What they don’t want to see is the same type of abuse develop with 911 texts. “A lot of the (phone) calls we receive begin with ‘I don’t really have an emergency but…,’” she added. The most dangerous abuse of phoned-in calls to the 911 line are the report of “fake emergencies,” Roberts said, or untruthful reports. Officials are able to prosecute (for abuse of the 911 system), “When someone calls in with a fake emergency, reporting say that someone was beaten up,” Roberts explained. “We start a full response, code 3. So this fake emergency is risking their safety. “It is a giant waste of resources,” she said. Texting 911 with non-emergencies is particularly problematic in that it takes more time for operators to text messages back and forth.
When to text 911All that said, sheriff’s officials set up the 911 text message system for a reason. “It’s great to have the option of texting,” Shirley Miller, spokeswoman for the SCV Sheriff’s Station, said. “If you’re hiding in a closet from an attacker and don’t want to be heard, text. “In cases of domestic violence, if you don’t want your significant other to know where you are, you can text,” she added. “And, one of the other reasons why we want to keep texting for appropriate uses is because with our new system, we did not get another dispatcher to handle texts,” she added. And, there’s one other request 911 dispatchers have for the public at large — don’t give your old cellphones to your toddlers for a toy. Even with no phone service, a discarded cell phone with a powered battery can still dial 911, officials said. “We get a ton of those calls,” Ibrahim said, probably from babies and toddlers.