911 dispatch seeing non-emergency related calls

SPOKANE, Wash. – When you dial 911, you expect someone to answer the phone, and to be helped right away. But, it is possible you could be on hold, and not because of someone else’s emergency.

In an emergency, every second counts. Spokane Regional Emergency Communications says its been receiving calls that aren’t emergencies. Those lines could be holding up help for someone who really needs it.

It was busy in the 911 call center room with dispatchers multitasking, talking to people on the phone while trying to find them the appropriate help.

About 1,300 calls per day come through the center, calls from someone who may be in distress. Also, sometimes the dispatchers are getting calls that aren’t emergencies.

“It’s the lack of social distancing we’re getting several calls on right now,” said Lori Markham, the executive director for SREC, adding that people are calling about businesses being open that shouldn’t be open, or other people getting together.

So, not really an emergency for people who are calling, reporting those not following social distancing guidelines.

“We’re really not the place for those calls,” Markham said.

On a whiteboard in the room, a number and email written for where those calls should go.

“We’re able to educate people when they call and are reporting those that are congregating,” Markham said.

Although, that could even hold up an actual emergency.

“We want to make sure we’re leaving those lines open for people that are experiencing true emergencies and not those who are concerned about the congregation,” Markham said.

That doesn’t mean they’re not going to help. If you are in an emergency, but are also experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms, tell the dispatchers. They will ask you a few extra questions.

“It’s not going to prevent us from coming to assist you, but it is going to make sure we are protecting our responders and continue to protect our communities,” Markham said.

Questions about the coronavirus and symptoms should go to your doctor.

If there is someone or a business you suspect is not complying to the governor’s order, the number to report them is 509-477-2684. The email is InlandBizCompliance@Spokanecounty.org.