Accidental calls could be tying up 911 dispatchers in Tampa

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Sheriff's 911 Center urges people not to misuse the 911 system.

They receive a high volume of hang-ups. They also get prank calls. At times, people have called the center, reporting a fake emergency.

"We stay on long enough to determine if we hear anything, that there might be a struggle (or) if there is a real emergency we overhear," Brad Herron, general manager of the Communications Bureau for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, said.

Regardless of the type of call, dispatchers have to stay on the line or call back to make sure someone is not experiencing a true emergency. Herron said it is a time-consuming task and it could prevent you from getting through to 911.

The 911 center provided a few calls to ABC Action News where dispatchers spent time sorting through those calls. In one 911 call, a child tried to prank them. In another call, a man reported people were chasing him. It was not true. Authorities said that man called them more than 1,200 times, a few years ago, wasting valuable resources.

"It took us a couple of months to ping him and track him down," Herron said.

Herron said what makes it more difficult is the fact that 85 percent of their calls are from wireless cell phones, which means it is harder for them to pinpoint where the call came from on top of validating whether it is a true emergency.

"It takes crucial minutes away from other people that are having true emergencies," Herron said.

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