Have you dialed the number to your police department and had a conversation similar to this one before?

Dispatcher: “911, Where is your emergency?”

Caller: “Oh, um, I didn’t dial 911. I don’t have an emergency. Sorry.”

Dispatcher: “Wait, don’t hang up. Who are you trying to reach?”

Caller: “I just need to talk to an officer.”

Dispatcher: “You have the correct number; we dispatch for them. What department do you need to talk to?”

Caller: “Someone in the Licking area.”

At this point the dispatcher will keep talking to the caller to determine if they need a city officer or a county deputy.

As I have mentioned in the past, Texas County Emergency Services – “9-1-1” – dispatches for the Texas County Sheriff’s Department and the Houston, Licking and Summersville police departments. This includes non-emergency calls. When the dispatcher answers by saying “911,” or “911, where is your emergency?,” please do not just hang up.

Even if you are just needing to ask a question or talk to an officer or deputy, dispatch will ask for your name and phone number. Other questions may include where the incident took place or the location of what you have a question about. If it is a general question, dispatch will ask your location or address. This will determine what department is notified about your call. Lastly, they will ask what the question is about.

Dispatch may not be able to answer all questions and must defer them to the police agency. Dispatch cannot transfer your call directly to that officer or deputy. Dispatch will put your information in the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD), then notify the correct department personnel.

Once that deputy or officer is available, they will call you back. When they do call, it usually shows up as an “unknown” or “restricted” number on your caller ID. If you have a phone with settings that don’t allow those numbers, it is important to share that information with dispatch or turn off that feature until you have received that call back.

What if you want to remain anonymous? Are you calling in to leave a tip or information and want to remain anonymous? That is possible. You’re welcome to call and leave the information. Dispatch will still ask the questions, but you can advise them that you wish not to answer or leave that information. If you want to remain anonymous and still receive a call back, you must leave a contact phone number.

Some may question, why not just put it through to the deputy or officer? There are multiple reasons this doesn’t happen.

They may be on a call already. A “call” is what is referred when they are taking care of another situation. Transferring phone calls out also ties up a phone line and the time of a dispatcher.

They may be out on a traffic stop or they may not even be on duty. All law enforcement personnel in Texas County are very dedicated, but they do also take much-needed days off and we will not contact them on their time off.

Rest assured that your call will not be ignored; all calls are assigned to on-duty personnel. If the on-duty officer and/or their supervisor deems it necessary to call someone on their day off, it will be done.

Just because you heard “9-1-1, where is your emergency?” doesn’t mean that you are going to be in any trouble because you reached 9-1-1 without having an emergency. There are instances that one can be charged with misuse of 911 or an emergency number. Examples of this would be constantly calling in for nuisances reasons, after a situation has been taken care of, or calling in false reports, such as an emergency event, or even prank calling.

Calling in false reports or nuisance calls is taking personnel away from actual emergencies. I always like to use the example of: Someone has called in a false report, and all the necessary responders are sent (this could include fire, ambulance and law enforcement). Since this report of an emergency has been made, responders must be sent. Then when all the responders are out, a real call comes in. Maybe it is your grandma, dad or any family who has a real life or death emergency. The closest ambulance was sent to the “false” report, so there is a longer wait time for the ambulance, law or fire department to respond to the real emergency, as they are driving from a different location. The “false” report is still real until personnel arrives on scene to determine it isn’t.  

As always, dispatch is there to answer your calls. When a call is received there is no way to determine that it is or isn’t an emergency until the call is answered. Even if you do believe you have accidently dialed or do not need any agency, don’t hang up. Stay on the line and explain that it was a mistake.

The Texas County Emergency Services office in Houston is funded by a 3/8-cent countywide sales tax approved by voters in 2013. Assistant director Terra Culley can be reached by phone at 417-967-5309 or by email at terraculley911@hotmail.com.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply Cancel reply