As We See It

Clark County seeks to reduce inappropriate 911 calls

Fluffy doesn’t want to climb down the tree? Call 311, not 911.
Illustration: Jon Estrada

Sprained ankles. Information about the weather. Loud neighbors. Sore throats. Questions about paying traffic tickets. Grievances with the guy that takes your drive-thru order. These are all issues locals deemed serious enough to warrant calling 911.

The ineptitude doesn’t stop there. 911 dispatchers have also fielded calls regarding stubbed toes and other minor injuries, pet problems and queries regarding travel. And there are the crank calls. Non-emergencies are clogging up 911 lines and posing a risk to the health of those justifiably calling for immediate assistance. According to the Clark County Fire Department—which is appealing to the citizenry to learn proper 911 protocol, especially to avoid impediments for those in much more dire circumstances—it logged almost 153,000 calls for service last year, nearly 7,500 of which were classified as “other,” or non-fire/non-EMS. From January to April of this year, they’ve already taken nearly 98,000 calls, indicating a 3.4 percent increase over January to April of 2015.

So, when should someone call 911 (or text, if a call absolutely cannot be made)? According to a PSA made by students for Clark County, grounds include a life-threatening injury from any kind of accident, a person choking or struggling to breathe and a structure on fire. (A crime in progress also qualifies.) From there, callers should be prepared to give their name and phone number so a dispatcher can call back, their address (and any possible nearby landmarks), and a description of the problem.

But if someone wants to report not being able to sleep through the neighbors’ kids’ party, or Fluffy’s unwillingness to climb down the tall tree, or any other less grave circumstance, their alternative is calling (or texting) 311. And if you’re in doubt as to which number to dial, go with 911 and let the dispatcher determine whom you should call next.

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