Dispatch centers warn about fake 911 calls

Officials say fake 911 phone calls take away time and resource from real emergencies

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- Whether a prank or an accident, dispatch centers say it has serious consequences.

Officials say fake 911 phone calls take away time and resources from real emergencies.

It’s something Joanna Nelson is familiar with. She said she used to be an EMT and has been on several fake 911 calls.

“There's been often times when we've been on calls where kids have called either by on accident or by playing a game. Had other calls come in that were important, we were either late in response or another unit had to go," said Joanna Nelson, local mom of three.

Recently, police reported kids accidentally dialed 911 several times on an old phone.

"At least with Franklin County, right now there's small group of them in there. So if we're getting bogged down by a bunch of cell phone calls that aren't really emergencies are going to cause problems," said Sgt. Scott Warren of the Pasco Police Department.

Numbers from the Franklin County Dispatch Center show there were 260 hang up 911 calls in 2015. And in 2016, there's been 107.

"The dispatchers are trying to determine if it's a real emergency or is what is it? If they're focused on that, the calls that are coming in that are emergencies are put on hold or they're not dealt with in a timely matter as they need to be," added Warren.

Police say parents need know that any phone they give their child as a toy could still call 911 unless it's completely disabled.

Officials also want parents to talk with their kids about the impacts of calling 911 even just as a joke.

And Joanna knows, every second makes a difference, that's why she won't waste time and resources and hopes others won't either.

Joanna's background.

"I've explained to them when to use 911 and then what happens when they make a phone call if they were ever to when it wasn't necessary,” added Nelson.

Police say even old phones have the capability of dialing 911, something parents should keep in mind when giving their phones to their kids.

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