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911 Dispatchers are supposed to get help to people in need, but dispatchers in our area say their call centers are getting jammed with hang-ups.

In 2007, New Hanover County dispatchers dealt with 10,516 hang-up calls. That averages out to 29 each day. Each time someone calls and hangs up, time that could be spent on serious emergencies is wasted. Each hang up takes an average of two to four minutes to check on, and if no one answers when the dispatcher calls the number back, a law enforcement officer is sent to the location, tying up more precious time.

"It’s very frustrating, and it ties up the dispatcher. They’re answering the call, trying to get back up with the person, and meanwhile there could be some other real emergencies coming in," Brunswick County dispatch director Tom Rogers said.

Dispatcher Shawn Neighbors said, "We might get overwhelmed with calls, and you might catch one of those in the middle, and that can get frustrating."

The Department of Justice says southeast North Carolina has a high number of 911 misdials mainly because the telephone area code 910 is so similar to the emergency line.

"A lot of people are trying to dial 910 and will sometimes hit the one twice," New Hanover County assistant dispatch supervisor Brenda Hewlett said.

Dispatchers urge callers to use caution when dialing, and if you have an open face cell phone, lock the keypad so it does not accidentally dial out. If you do realize that you’ve called 911, don’t hang up.

"If you accidentally dial 911, you should stay on the phone. When one of our telecommunicators answers, tell them you accidentally dialed," Hewlett said.

Brunswick County dispatch deals with an average of 20 hang-ups a day, while Pender County gets about three.

In North Carolina there are no fines for accidentally calling 911, but you can be arrested if you misuse the 911 system, such as prank calling or harassing dispatchers.

Comment on this Story

  • Guest111

    Let’s face it 911 operators make good money to answer even the hangup calls. Im sure that they have plenty of time between bites of the donut to answer their calls.

    I don’t mean to be nasty, but personally in the last year I have heard much whinning for 911 operators, cops, firefighters and everyone else in emergency service


  • disgusted

    I have heard myself someone call 911 and complain because their neighbor has not cut their grass. People are so quick to cal1 911 its stupid. Alot of the time when someone calls 911 they are just pissed with someone and they think it will scare the other person if they just dial those 3 little numbers. It dont work that way. 911 is emergency use only. HOW ABOUT USE IT THAT WAY!!!!

  • Guest911

    Yes, we have a job. We are grateful for the public support of us; we do our best to be positive and calm in spite of insults that we did not earn, so your post comes as no surprise.

    You don’t identify yourself, so feel free to be rude in your anonymity. I don’t know what experience prompted this level of hostility, but such comments usually originate from those who are fired from (or quit) the 911 telecommunicator field.
    We don’t begrudge you for your lack of understanding or your lack of class. We’ll still professionally process your call the next time you complain about a dog barking or someone parking too close to your driveway, while we simultaneously handle a mother crying hysterically over her baby’s lack of breathing or someone waking to a spouse with no pulse (and you’ll never even know it).

    Thank you for your support, if not for your understanding and civility.

  • Hope911

    Actually, our city garbage men, and the those that plant flowers in your local city parks make more money then our fine, and well trained dispatchers. Seems, you have spoken without doing any real research and its my judgment that your entire statement is unjust and flat out ignorant! Most dispatchers work 8- hour days receiving up to 100+ calls a day, with only 15 seconds between each call. There are lots of citizens in our community that are unfortunately in need of our local police, fire and ambulance and need to call 911. Do to my findings about the highly stress jobs of these operators, they just might not mind having that time between calls to shove a donut down there mouths…because everytime the phone does NOT ring, this means, that maybe, for a second, citizens are at peace and nobody is in any harm. Maybe you should look at doing something like serving our society in some more productive way, then wasting your time writing useless comments online….need a donut with your whinning??

  • So do people at Hardees and McDonalds.

  • WilmMan

    I have no doubts that the 911 operator understands that some of these calls are legit. They are trained to detect nervousness in the caller. If the 911 operator calls back and even slightly suspects something is going on, they will dispatch an officer to check it out.

    What I think they should do is take a record of 911 hang-ups and when they reach a certain number start charging the owner of the house with missuse of the 911 system

  • hunter

    Sometimes 911 call hang ups are truly victims who are not able to report why they are calling. For example if a domestic violence victim is being confronted by their attacker and only has the chance to dial 911 may not be able to speak and when the dispatch calls back they either do not answer or are forced to answer the call by the attacker and are forced to lie saying things are o.k.
    Yes I am sure that 911 call centers around the nation get a lot of hang ups but the dispatcher should remember that some of these calls are legit and still have a officer respond to the address that shows up on their screen or to the area the call is coming from.

  • Erica

    I am currently dispatching in Ky, but am thinking about moving to NC because my boyfriend is in the military. Could you please give me a web site that would be good to find the certifications and payrate in NC? I would very much appreciate it!

  • Mocchacinamama

    I get that 911 dispatchers have important jobs, but what about their shortcomings. I waited three and a half hours at the scene of an accident this morning, because dispatch who I sopke with three times, never relayed the message to the WPD! The 911 call center even left a message on my cell phone, telling me someone had been contacted! Fine your job is taxing and a times difficult, but this is ridiculous! I am grateful that my ten year old daughter and I were not being assaulted or that one of us was seriously injured, because no one was on the way ever. I did receive an apology from the 911 dispatch supervisor, who admitted that there were some serious errors that had taken place and was glad that it was only a minor accident as well. She assured me that she would look into the matter and said she herself listened to the dispatch tapes and verified that I had called and that dispatch had indeed received more than one call from me. Also from GEICO and the towing service. I can appreciate what you do, but would like you to do better. Thanks.


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