There are a lot of folks who call 911 when really aren’t facing an emergency, and Barton County 911 Supervisor Dena Popp is out to change that.
“Over the last several years, the number of non-emergency calls on emergency lines has increased,” she told the County Commission Monday morning. These callers ask for road conditions or to report such things as animals at large, none of which require immediate response.
Why? Popp said most residents don’t realize her department has eight administrative lines as well as eight 911 lines.
Callers can dial 620-793-1920 for non-emergency assistance, Popp said. Up until Monday, that number had not been publicized and she wants to get that number out there.
The two numbers have different ring tones so dispatchers can prioritize the calls accordingly. But, all calls will be answered, Popp said.
“Please be mindful of what is a true emergency and what is not a true emergency,” she said.
There is also another issue. While most 911 calls originate from cell phones, there are calls that come in from inactive cell phones, Popp said.
Sometimes, parents give their old mobile phones to their children not realizing the will still call 911. So, when such calls come in, they are required to send officers to the scene.
These, she said, can be wild goose chases.
Since 911 was introduced in Barton County in the 1980s as a universal number for reaching emergency assistance, efforts have been made to raise public awareness about its use, Popp said. But, because most people rarely face emergency situations, they lack first-hand experience with the system.
Generally speaking, people are aware that they should call 911 in an emergency, but they are less aware of the circumstances in which they should not call 911, Popp said. Now, she hopes to educate the public on this matter.
Located at the corner of Lakin and Stone streets, the primary function of the Communications Department (9-1-1) is the dispatching of emergency services for all of Barton County. The department provides emergency dispatching services for the Barton County Sheriff’s Office; the police departments of Claflin, Ellinwood, Great Bend, and Hoisington; the Kansas Highway Patrol; and all fire departments and emergency medical services in the county. It also dispatches for Kansas Wildlife and Parks, Central Kansas Community Corrections and Juvenile Services.
Basically, it is the public safety answering point for all of Barton County and has enhanced 911 services, Popp said.
Communications has 15 employees – the director, two supervisors, and 12 dispatchers. Three dispatchers are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week and are required to work holidays, and weekends as scheduled.
In addition to providing emergency services, they provide the public with 911 addresses when building a new structure or moving to the Barton County area.