‘Every second could mean somebody’s life’: Non-emergency calls plague Guilford Metro 911

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Dispatchers work around the clock answering the community’s calls for help, but some people are tying up the lines to 911 with calls that don’t qualify for emergencies.

“It’s dangerous to play with 911,” said Paige Cummings, a senior supervisor for Guilford Metro 911.

Cummings and a team of call takers answered 324,493 calls for help, 23,695 were non-emergencies.

“That’s a big number and a big chunk of unnecessary calls to 911,” she said.

It averages to more than 1,900 non-emergency calls per month and 65 calls each day.

“Every second could mean somebody’s life,” Cummings said.

For 25 years, she has answered calls inside at Guilford Metro 911. She told FOX8 if someone called 911 by mistake and hung up, she’s required to call back.

“I would say that’s two to three minutes that’s wasted,” she said. “We can only concentrate on one telephone call at a time so that’s taking one person out of the mix from being able to answer true emergency calls.”

It’s time Cummings could use to give life-saving directions to help a heart attack patient or dispatch police, EMS and fire.

“I have received calls wanting police because a takeout sandwich was not cut exactly in half,” Cummings said.

She told FOX8 there are 14 vacancies at the 911 call center. It makes the problem worse.

“We’re asking dispatchers to do double duty by then answering emergency calls and it just puts more stress and more work on everybody.” she said.

Greensboro police have charged three people for misusing 911 this year, 39 people were charged in 2020 and 35 people were charged in 2019.

Cummings told FOX8 if you’re not in immediate danger to use the non-emergency number in your county. In Guilford County, it’s (336) 373-2222.

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