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Nonemergency calls slowing down 911 operators in central Indiana

Nonemergency calls can tie up a line for those that have an urgent emergency.

INDIANAPOLIS — Emergency operators say you'd be surprised how often people call 911 for something other than an actual emergency.

"Pretty much anything like overflowing sinks, 'I've been locked out of my apartment,' there’s nothing else going on," said Melanie Castille, dayshift manager at Marion County’s 911 Center.

"I get home, they gave me the wrong food," one caller recently told a 911 operator in Hancock County. "It’s not the right stuff."

The complaints range from mistakes in the fast food drive-thru to spiders on the ceiling and directional help just getting somewhere.

“Ok, are you calling for directions?” asked one 911 dispatcher while taking a call.

There are even requests to be transferred.

Transferred where?

“Family, friends, anywhere,” replied Castille.

“Am I talking to somebody that can get me to a telephone in Germany?” one caller asked a 911 operator.

The problem, of course, is that it ties up the line for those who really do have an emergency and need help now.

“There may be a delay when your mom is having a heart attack and she needs an ambulance and that call taker can't get that call fast enough,” said April Heinze, 911 Operations Director at the National Emergency Number Association.

It's a problem 13Investigates has been tracking since June of 2018, when callers waited an average of 27 seconds for a Marion County 911 dispatcher to answer.

But four years later, that number seems to have improved.

In April, the average wait time for 911 callers was just 17 seconds.

According to the National Emergency Number Association, emergency dispatcher centers should answer 90% of all 911 calls within 15 seconds. Ninety-five percent of calls should be answered within 20 seconds.

“I honestly don’t think there’s enough education about 911 emergency services,” said Castille.

Dispatchers say every police agency has a non-emergency number which can be found on that agency’s website or online.

But whenever you’re in doubt, and you think your situation may be a true emergency, Henzie said don’t hesitate to dial 911.

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