TOLEDO, Ohio — A local push is underway to crack down on the misuse of the 911 system. In one year, the Toledo Fire Department responded to 5,000 calls that later were determined to be non-emergency situations.
It cost $250,000 for the city to respond to those non-emergency calls.
"Our people are there because they want to be there, so they don't mind going on the calls. What gets frustrating is when they go on calls that aren't really urgent because they realize now that's creating a delay for what could be a much more urgent call in their district," Toledo Fire Chief Brian Byrd said.
We often bring you video of firefighters putting out massive flames, but that's a small portion of what they do.
Many calls are actually for medical care or some other service, but a new 911 task force says too many calls are coming in that don't qualify as emergencies.
"There are some needs that we don't have services for, (such as) isolation and loneliness and lack of resources. We really need to work together to create a stronger safety net for people," said Jan Ruma, executive director of Toledo Lucas County CareNet.
The confusion on when to call 911 is taxing on first responders, their equipment and your pocketbook.
And, it keeps crews running around all over the city.
For example, say Fire Station 1 gets sent out to a non-emergency call, and then a real emergency happens in their area. Fire Station 2 has to go respond to the emergency near Fire Station 1. Then, if something happens near Fire Station 2 while they're helping Fire Station 1, now a THIRD station has to jump in and help.
All the calls get answered, but crews have to drive farther when it all could've been avoided.
These calls aren't prank calls, though; they're people who genuinely need help, such as elderly people who can't get around their homes, but don't have anyone to care for them.
"It's not a 911 call, but it still represents a genuine need for services," Toledo City Councilwoman Sandy Spang said.
So now, a task force is working to connect groups like the United Way, Care Net and Emergency Dispatch to set clear guidelines on when to call 911 and where else you can find help.