Officials discuss how bogus 911 calls are handled

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office 911 center head Brad Herron said "abuse of a 911 call can take a 911 operator offline for anywhere between five and 10 minutes”

By EMS1 Staff

TAMPA, Fla.  —The head of a 911 center, a lawyer and a dispatcher explain what happens when a caller dials 911 without an actual emergency.

WFLA reported that dozens of people are arrested each year under misuse of 911 charges all over the state of Florida.

"Misuse of 911 comes in many shapes and sizes," Brad Herron, head of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office 911 center, said. "To have adults call in that are literally utilizing the 911 system for either a joke or to send a law enforcement agency on a wild goose chase is certainly concerning. One abuse of 911 call can take a 911 operator offline for anywhere between five and 10 minutes.”

Tampa attorney Nicholas Matassini said that although one offense is a misdemeanor, repeat offenders can face felony charges.

"Somebody is doing it to get a rival or otherwise just make a stunt and perhaps put it on social media or something like that. That's going to be clearly the type of phone call that's inappropriate and made with criminal intent," he said.

Dispatcher Justine Stickley said “it’s frustrating” when she answers non-emergency calls.

"It's frustrating when that there are other 911 callers probably trying to call in and possibly can't get through because we're busy," she said. "I'll explain to them that this line is for life and death emergencies and please do not utilize 911 for that.”


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