Dispatchers say 911 calls by children commonplace

911

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Young children tend to be calmer than adults when they call 911, but emergency dispatchers in Sedgwick County say it’s not always easy to find out why they called, where they are and whether there really is an emergency.

Sedgwick County Emergency Communications receives about 10 calls a day from children younger than 10, with two or three of those calls typically coming from children younger than 5, The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/1hIF71M ) reported.

While those calls can take up valuable time, they also can provide information the office can use to refine the lessons given to youngsters about the emergency phone service, dispatchers said.

The most important details children can give 911 dispatchers are their address and phone number, said Kim Pennington, director of emergency communications for Sedgwick County. Teaching that information to their kids should be a priority for parents, she said.

Often children think they’re talking to firefighters or police officers when they call 911, and dispatchers aren’t inclined to correct them, said Maj. Laura Meyers, who oversees quality assurance and training for the emergency communications center.

“For the most part, they’re very cooperative,” Meyers said. “They will give you the information you ask for. It seems like they’re usually very willing and very helpful and very attentive.”

Sometimes it’s not easy to get the most basic of information, Meyers said. Dispatchers are trained to lower their voices, use simpler words and talk more slowly with children.

When small children don’t know their home address or phone number, dispatchers will ask if there’s mail nearby, or whether there’s a school or park nearby.

Children generally are calmer than adults when making 911 calls, even when there’s a real emergency, Pennington said. Adult callers can be loud — even hysterical — when calling, even when things turn out not to be serious.

“Children don’t have that knowledge baggage that they’ve brought with them,” she said. “I think that’s one of the reasons they stay calmer.”

It also helps that many of the dispatchers are parents of young children, Meyers said.

“A lot of us are used to dealing with the mindset of a 2-year-old child,” she said.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

 

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