On March 31, 10 digit dialing went into effect for callers in Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Orange, Wake and Wayne counties. The main reason callers were faced to change to the 10-digit dialing is to make room for the new 984 area code. However, the change in the 10 digit dialing has created a nightmare for emergency management officials.
“Now that the month of May has ended, and all the statistics have been complied, it’s official: 9-1-1 hang-up calls and misdials continue at an alarming pace,” Emergency Communications Director Barry Furey said.
Fuquay-Varina Public Information Officer Susan Weis concurs with Furey and said 9-1-1 calls from conventional telephones are up 48 percent since March. In addition, outgoing calls made by 9-1-1 personnel have increased by more than 63 percent. The reason that 9-1-1 personnel has seen an increase in calls is because they are forced to validate hang-up calls.
“In March, prior to the institution of an area code overlay, telecommunicators processed and average of 1,434 nine-one one calls per day,” Weis said. “This climbed to 1,780 per 24 hour period in April, and to 1,820 each day in May. The problem is clearly getting worse.”
Weis said in January 2012 the Fuquay-Varina area had 12 emergency calls where officers had to be dispatched to validate. In February, 10 calls and March emergency officials had 11 calls. However, when the 10-digit dialing went into place, emergency officials saw 93 calls in April, 100 calls in May and 42 calls within the first 13 days in June.
“As you can see, within your community alone, responses for this class of call are ten times as high in May as they were in February.”
Weis said the increase of hang up calls has called a delay in emergency officials being able to answer emergency calls.
“This demand on staff has more than negated non-emergency call reduction strategies adopted by the 9-1-1 center during recent years. Since the implementation of the area code overlay, the number of calls answered in 10 seconds or less has dropped from 88.3 percent to 81.2 percent. Further delays are anticipated as peak summer periods approach, with bona-fide emergencies increasingly competing with unwarranted calls.”
Weis reminds residents if they accidentally call 9-1-1 then they need to stay on the line.
“Once again, citizens are reminded to remain on the line should they dial 9-1-1 in error, but more importantly to take the time to dial every call carefully; because it may truly be a matter of life and death.”