911 call centers clogged with non emergency and prank calls

AMARILLO, Texas----911 call centers across the nation and right here in Amarillo are being clogged by non life threatening calls and the problem only seems to be getting worse.

Today, NewsChannel10 spent an hour downtown at the Amarillo Emergency Communications Center off S. Buchanan St.

In the short time our news team was there, at least 50 calls for service had been placed.

"You never know what you're going to get when you answer the phone," Kayelynn Deceuster said. "I always say it's like playing Russian roulette with the phone."

On any given day, dispatchers answer hundreds of phone calls.

"We get a call volume of about 1,500 calls a day," says Judith Weshinskey-Price.

It's estimated that roughly 50 percent of all calls to 911 are non emergencies.

Veteran dispatcher say they've heard every call in the book.

"You can sit down and pick up the phone and it can be a person having a heart attack," Price said. "When you hang up the next call can be a barking dog."

The biggest culprits clogging up 911 centers are children.

"Kids will call 911 and they will mock you," Deceuster said.

"It's just kids being silly," Jessica Martin said. "You never know what you're going to get or what they tell you."

It's prank calls that have the biggest impact on dispatchers and emergency responders.

"It effects us and our staffing because it increases the amount of calls they have to answer," Price said. "On a busy day a call may ring a couple of extra times before we can get to it."

Because of problems like this, police have a solution in place.

"They can be sited just like a speeder can," Price said. "The officers have full power to go out and give them a ticket."

Here's some helpful hints to take into consideration when determining whether a call should be placed to 911:

Ask yourself:

*Is my life in danger?

*Is the situation happening now or about to happen?

*Is my property a target?

*Do I need emergency services at my doorstep now?

Common scenarios that are often mistaken as emergencies include the following:

*Car burglary: You walk out to your car and notice somebody has busted out your window and stole valuables

*Home burglary: You arrive home from work and discover a window or door has been tampered with and items out of your house appear missing.

However, these situations are considered 911 emergencies under circumstances listed below:

*Car burglary/robbery: As you enter your car, somebody walks up and threatens you with a weapon

*Home invasion: You or family members are home at the same time an intruder makes entry into your house.

If ever in doubt of whether a situation you are in is an emergency, officers and law enforcement encourage you to play it safe and dial 911 just in case.

Dispatchers can always re-route your call to the proper authorities.

911 hang-ups are also common in this day in age.

We're told dispatchers are required to call back and make contact with the subject before disregarding any hang-up calls.

Law enforcement and dispatchers also want to warn people that technology on the market is now able to trace both mobile and home phone calls.

If you reside in Amarillo and do not have an emergency but would like to contact the police department, call 378-3038.