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Dispatchers stress importance of not tying up 911 phone lines

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WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- Police dispatch centers are getting hundreds of non-emergency calls a day that needlessly tie up their lines. Now, a new campaign is educating people about where else to call.

"Sometimes it is a matter of life and death we need to start CPR on somebody or we need to get police there as fast as possible," said Martin Webb supervisor at Valley Emergency Communication Center.

But in the 10 years of working at the call center Webb has had countless calls tie up the emergency line.

Caller: I need someone to come in and look at the spider and make sure we're OK.

Dispatch: How big is the spider?

Caller: It's just a little one

"In that case I think the spider had actually already been killed," said Geana Randall, Information Coordinator at VECC.

Emergency operators say they get more than 2,000 calls a day, half of which are non-emergencies.

Dispatch: Police officers don't fix refrigerators

Caller: Well who do I talk to about a refrigerator problem?

"That ties up the phone lines for the person who needs to call 911," Randall said.

Even when a call seems illogical or outlandish the operators can't hang up because they have to treat every call as if it were an emergency, which takes up an operator’s time in a situation where seconds save lives.

"That can make the difference between catching a robber it can make a difference between doing CPR it can make difference of getting a house fire out," Randall said.

Dispatchers say if you are not calling to save a life, stop a crime or report a fire to call a non-emergency line. You can find the numbers near you at 911.utah.gov.

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