Old cell phones cause issues for local 911 dispatchers

By: Kristen Shanahan Email
By: Kristen Shanahan Email

Old cell phones that become children's toys are causing a serious problem for local 911 dispatchers.

Many parents may find giving their kids old disconnected cell phones can serve as a fun toy with the multiple color lights and intriguing noises. However one thing parents may not realize is even though their old phone is cut off, one number often times still works, and that's 911.

Marshall County Dispatcher Tyler Canoe says at least a couple times a day she receives non-emergency calls from kids just playing on old phones. For instance, she says a 4-year-old boy called 911 claiming he was being robbed. It turned out he was just playing "cops and robbers".

"At times that can be frustrating, especially whenever the law enforcement are going to other calls and they put everything aside, especially for children. You never know when something is really going on with children."

Canoe says her job keeps her on her toes, keeping up with two 911 lines, four phone lines, and dispatch for more than 20 other services. She says with so much going on, there's never time to waste on accidental or prank calls.

Marshall County 911 Coordinator Deborah Pennypacker agrees time is valuable, especially when someone's life may be counting on it.

"Minutes count, seconds count whenever you have a real emergency."

Pennypacker says dispatch has to determine if each call is a real emergency. "If you're tying up that dispatcher with a call like this where it's not really a 911, not really an emergency call, it's somebody playing on the phone, it keeps them from taking care of a true live emergency."

Pennypacker says letting your kids play with old cell phones is fine. However it's important to remember to take the battery out. Something as simple as that, could help them save someone else.

Pennypacker says if your looking for ways to get rid of an old phone, there's another way to hand it down.

She says programs like the Marshall County Family Support Services take donated phones and give them to people in need.

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