Save 911 for emergencies, Sedgwick County director says

Sedgwick County 911 dispatchers take 1,650 calls a day, the director of emergency communications told commissioners Wednesday.

Commissioners proclaimed April as National 911 Education Month and the week of April 8 to 14 as National Public Safety Telecommunications Week.

Randy Bargdill, 911 director, noted that dispatchers help deliver an average 10 babies every year over the phone, provide directions for CPR in tense situations and get people help when needed.

“It’s the people at the end of the line that make the system work,” board chairman Tim Norton said.

Bargdill stressed that 911 is for emergency calls, a message the county has been emphasizing since calls about fireworks on the Fourth of July last year overloaded the 911 system. So many people called 911 to complain about fireworks that witnesses to a motorcycle crash got a busy signal when they called the emergency line for help.

The motorcyclist later died.

People calling 911 for reasons other than true emergencies like vehicle crashes or crimes are often a problem on the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve and during storms, county officials say.

About 3,555 calls came in to 911 over the 39-hour period from midnight July 3 to 3 p.m. July 5. During a typical 24-hour period, the center averages 1,200 to 1,500 calls.

Out of the 3,555 calls, nearly 20 percent were calls complaining about fireworks.

People should not call 911 for phone numbers, to report nuisance noises such as fireworks, to be transferred to police substations, or to report downed limbs that don’t pose a threat, Bargdill said.

This year, the county plans to have a separate line for people to call about fireworks. Residents also can call police substations in non-emergency situations. Patrol East’s number is 316-350-3420. Patrol West’s number is 316-350-3460. Patrol North’s number is 316-350-3400. Patrol South’s number is 316-350-3440.