The Chesterfield Emergency Communications Center provides public education programs on the use of 9-1-1. We assist the Chesterfield Police Department in school programs, and we instruct 1st grade students in the difference between what situations are and are not emergencies, and hands on practice utilizing our 9-1-1simulator.
If you would like more information for your child, go to Kidshealth.org/kid/watch/er/911.html
Dialed 911 by mistake? Don’t hang up!
Emergency communications officers want everyone to know not to hang up when they’ve mistakenly dialed 911.
By Dave Goode
Everyday emergency communications centers across the country, including the Chesterfield County Emergency Communications Center, receive 911 calls in which the callers hang up. It’s what emergency communications professionals call “abandoned calls” or “911 hang-ups.” Pranksters make some calls, but most of the time it’s people who have dialed 911 by mistake, recognize the mistake, and quickly hang up.
Emergency communications officers want everyone to know not to hang up when they’ve mistakenly dialed 911. Even if a caller hangs up before he or she hears a ringtone, the call still goes through to a 911 center. When that occurs, the emergency communications officer who receives the call must return it to determine whether an emergency has occurred. Emergency personnel are dispatched and only pulled back when it is determined there is not an emergency.
911 hang-ups take considerable time and resources away from dealing with actual emergencies.
“When a communications officer has to return a hang-up call, it takes him or her out of a position to handle an emergency call,” said Pam Cimburke, programs manager for the Chesterfield County Emergency Communications Center. “That abandoned call is considered an emergency until we determine otherwise.”
“Lots of people don’t realize the calls go through even if they hang up quickly,” said Susan Guice, an emergency communications officer and 911 veteran. “I’ve seen as many as three abandoned calls having to be dealt with at one time.”
Such calls made on wireless phones create another challenge. While the 911 system detects the exact location from where calls are made using landline phones, it can only immediately detect the location of the tower from which a wireless call was transmitted. If there is an emergency and the caller doesn’t stay on the line long enough to provide a location, response time delays can be significant.
That’s no reason to not make an emergency 911 call with a wireless phone though. Wireless callers should stay on the line long enough to provide enough information, whether it be an exact address or location, or a description of the area if an address or location isn’t known. Technology does exist to approximate more closely the location from which a wireless 911 call was made, but it’s not instantaneous, meaning more precious time is lost.
We also have special programs and tours of our facility upon request. If you are interested, please call 796-7066 weekdays between 8:00 to 4:00.