Central 911 chief Emmanuel Jaldon is expressing alarm over the high volume of non-emergency calls that his department is receiving. He encourages the public to call 911 only when emergency situations are legitimate and life-threatening.
Latest data from the Central 911 call center indicates that about 68 percent of the calls received by Central 911 are non-emergency.
For example, during the months of July, August, and September this year, Central 911 received 43,214 calls but only 14,027 of these are valid. The rest of the 29,187 were non-emergency calls.
Jaldon classified non-emergency calls into four.
The first ones are inquiries about where emergencies and accidents are. He politely discouraged the public from calling Central 911 to ask where fires are happening and where traffics jams are occurring.
Test calls and drills by offices to check 911’s availability in their phone line are also classified as non-emergency calls.
Miscellaneous calls received by Central 911 that were also identified as non-emergency are those reports from people complaining about noise from animals and construction sites in their area.
The department cannot respond to these, Jaldon said, advising callers to forward their concerns to their respective barangay officials.
The priority of Central 911 as the responders are people’s lives, Jaldon said. He encouraged people to call 911 only when they are directly involved in situations that put people’s lives in jeopardy.
He said that Central 911 responds to requests for animal rescue (like cats getting stuck in trees or roofs) in a case to case basis and only if the situation is grave enough to affect a community. Central 911 services include animal control but not animal rescue.
But what Jaldon is extremely alarmed about are the bogus or prank calls that cause disruption in their operations. These are from callers who hang up after being connected or do not talk to 911 personnel. Bogus calls also include silly callers that ask for winning lotto numbers, crack jokes, look for phone pals, or are just making rude remarks.
Call center agents of Central 911 suspect that these prank callers could be school kids, as attributed to the time of call: 11 AM lunch breaks and early afternoons (at 4 PM) when classes are dismissed. Calls are also high in frequency during school breaks or vacation days.
Prank calls clog Central 911’s network and make it difficult for its call center to actually receive legitimate emergency calls, said Jaldon
Jaldon added that prank calls get in the way of how Central 911 properly utilizes its resources. For example, the limited number of ambulances by Central 911, which are dedicated to responding to life threatening emergencies, could be directed to respond to bogus emergencies instead of being dispatched to real life-threatening situations.
The Central 911 call center can only go as far as blocking bogus callers after five calls. This allows personnel to reach out to the owner of the phone line in the future for when they request to be unblocked.
Jaldon said that there is currently no law that penalizes prank callers but he is talking to the city’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to come up with a resolution where a potential ordinance can be based. He said that information and education campaigns in schools should also be strengthened.
He advises the public to prepare the following information when calling 911: the nature of the emergency, location, and caller’s name. Central 911 call takers may request for additional information as the call and response dispatch progresses simultaneously.
Callers are advised to be prompt, clear, and direct to the point when calling Central 911, he said.