Children playing with cellphones Thursday morning briefly disrupted Greene County 911 communications.
The youthful culprits were located by sheriff’s deputies and spoken to along with adults in the house.
911 Director Jerry Bird and Sheriff Wesley Holt Friday advised adults supervising children to take steps to avoid misuse of phones and emergency communications.
“A lot of parents like to give old cellphones to small children to play with. Parents should make sure the battery is taken out of the phone or the battery is completely dead,” Holt said.
“Any cellphone that has a battery and will power on can call 911,” Bird added.
That includes cellphones with no minutes, a deactivated phone, or an old phone without a number.
“Old cellphones that have service deactivated are still able to make a 911 emergency call. This ties up the 911 lines and puts an extra burden on our first responders in locating the call and making sure no one is in need of emergency services,” Holt said. “Parents should instruct their children on the proper use of when to call 911.”
Bird said that between about 9 and 11 a.m. Thursday, two children, each with a cellphone, began calling 911 Dispatch.
The children are between 7 and 9 years old.
“They were kids and they were just playing with the phones. The real problem occurred because they were playing with two separate cellphones and they were just calling in,” Bird said.
The children called 911 about 20 times Thursday morning, at times engaging two of the three available 911 lines used by dispatchers to receive emergency calls.
“(Dispatchers) only had one line available and that created a serious problem,” Bird said.
Dispatchers were able to track the calls to a South Greene-area home and contacted the sheriff’s department. Deputies located the youthful callers and spoke with them and adults in the house and cautioned them about the dangerous potential situation created by tying up 911 lines.
“We have kids that call in occasionally, but we have not had that many calls in quite a while,” Bird said.
Other youths who called 911 from a school bus last year were located and spoken to by School Resource Officers, he said.
Children shouldn’t be discouraged from calling 911 for a legitimate reason, but need to understand that a 911 call is only for actual emergencies, Bird said.
“We don’t want them to be scared to call 911, but unless they have a real emergency they should not call,” he said. “Deputies explained (Thursday) how potentially serious play-calling 911 could be.”
Bird said that calls to 911 Dispatch continue above levels logged last year as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Calls made to Greene County 911 Dispatch in July totaled 6,450, compared to 5,485 calls in July 2019.
Increased volume is another reason to discourage anyone, including children, from making unnecessary 911 calls.
“If you let children play with a cellphone, take the battery out first as this will alleviate any potential calls,” Bird said.