Janesville27.5°

Rock County 911 center aims to reduce abandoned calls

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Catherine W. Idzerda
February 22, 2010
— It’s not nice when somebody hangs up on you.

It’s especially unpleasant when it happens 19.45 times every day.


In 2009, the Rock County Communications Center’s 911 dispatchers dealt with 7,101 hang-up calls.


For nearly every call, an officer was dispatched to a scene where nothing was happening.


“We’ve been watching them go up for the past couple of years,” said Kathy Sukus, center operations manager. “Most of the hang ups come from cell phones.”


Here’s where those hang ups come from, said Sukus and Sgt. Brian Donohoue of the Janesville Police Department:


-- Accident scenes—Witnesses or victims will call 911, see an emergency vehicle on its way, and then hang up the phone.


-- Workplace misdials—At many offices, employees have to dial 9 before the number, and people make mistakes.


-- Embarrassed or uncertain people—People aren’t always sure what constitutes an “emergency.” When the 911 operator answers, they change their minds and hang up.


-- Actual emergencies—It takes 7 seconds for a call to get through to the 911 center. For people in emergencies, that can seem like a long time. Thinking they’ve misdialed or their calls did not go through, they hang up and dial again.


More than 95 percent of 911 calls are answered within two rings or less.


Dispatch calls back every 911 hang up, and it’s time consuming for callers and the police.


“It’s a very small percentage of people that have a problem, but we have to respond,” Sukus said. “If we save one life, it’s worth it.”


Even when a person tells a dispatcher that nothing is wrong, the dispatcher often sends an officer to make sure the person isn’t being coerced into making a statement.


An officer is sent unless a supervisor overrides the decision, Donohoue said.


So why stay on the line?


“In the case of an accident, you might have more information than the first caller,” Sukus.


In the case of an accidental call from home or the office, dispatch might be able to use other methods to determine that you are, indeed, safe.


Finally, if you’re in a situation were you think you’re in danger, call and leave the line open. Or if you’re being threatened, give the dispatcher neutral or nonsensical responses when he or she calls back.


“If you’re not answering correctly, we’ll start asking yes and no questions like, ‘Is there somebody there,’” Sukus said.



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