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Pinal County changing the way it handles 911 hangups

PCSO says move will save fuel, manpower

Misdialed or mistaken 911 hang-up calls from cell phones will no longer be followed up by Pinal County Sheriff's deputies in a move to save on fuel costs, a department spokesman said.

There were 9,870 hangups of the 603,812 calls the emergency system received in 2011, said PCSO spokesman Elias Johnson in a press release.

To complicate matters, Johnson said the increased use of smartphones makes tracking hangups more difficult, especially if the call was made from a moving vehicle.

Current procedure is to send a deputy to respond to a hangup, even if it were made mistakenly, Johnson said.

But that will change beginning Feb. 12 when the Public Safety Communications Division, which handles 911 calls, will take a new approach to save manpower and the cost of fuel, Johnson said.

When receiving a hang-up call, 911 staff will consider what type of phone was used to make the call and use a device for the hearing impaired to check all silent or open-line calls. Operators will call the number back to check on the caller and send an emergency responder if needed, and a deputy will not be dispatched if it is determined it was a misdialed call.

Public Safety Communications Director Jennifer Foster requested the change.

"This change in procedure will result in better time management and overall call-handling for the 911 operators and dispatchers, as well as the deputies whose time will be made more available for other priority calls for service and proactive policing," she said in the release.

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Considering a tight budget, Chief Deputy Steve Henry was quick to give the thumbs-up when Foster pitched the idea.

“ In the short- and long-term, fuel savings from cutting unnecessary call-outs will significantly save our office money. More importantly, deputies will be doing the work they’re meant to be doing: protecting citizens and saving lives,” said Henry.       

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Elias Johnson/Pinal County Sheriff's Office

Pima County Sheriff's Office dispatcher Gloria Wheeler uses the county's emergency communications system.