RICHMOND, Va. – Emergency call buttons on the new GRTC Pulse stations are getting a lot of use, but not the intended kind. Officials are asking for the public’s help in reducing misuse.
The buttons are located on posts in 25 Pulse stations within the city of Richmond. When pressed, they connect directly to 911 call-takers at the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications and are intended to be used for requesting police, fire or medical assistance during emergencies.
According to the Department of Emergency Communications computer-aided dispatch system, the buttons generated 95 calls to 911 from May 5 to July 30. Of those, 85 were silent.
“Whenever we get a silent call to 911, whether it’s from an emergency call box or anywhere else, we attempt to call back at least two times to determine the location and type of emergency,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications. “If we are not able to reach anyone, but we are able to determine the location, we dispatch a police officer to investigate. So if there is no emergency, the time and resources of our communications officers and police officers have been used unnecessarily.”
The Richmond Department of Emergency Communications and GRTC are working together to find ways to reduce the number of these unnecessary calls from Pulse stations. Possibilities discussed in early meetings include adding additional signs and placing clear covers over the buttons to prevent them from being pressed accidentally.
The public is asked to help reduce misuse of the emergency call buttons by avoiding leaning on the posts and preventing children from playing near the posts or pressing the buttons.
If the buttons are pressed accidentally, citizens should not leave the location. Instead, they should stay by the call box and explain to the call-taker that the call was a mistake.
Also, if 911 is called by mistake from any telephone, callers should remain on the line and explain to the call-taker that the call was a mistake.
These actions will prevent additional 911 telephone lines and communication officers from being used for call backs and prevent a police officer from being dispatched unnecessarily to investigate.