Deactivated Cell Phones Concern Ky. 911 Board

Deactivated Cell Phones Concern Ky. 911 Board

News Dec 05, 2012

Dec. 05--The members of the Owensboro-Daviess County consolidated 911 board plan to launch an educational campaign early next year, asking people to get rid of cell phones that are no longer attached to active cellular service plans.

At the 911 board's meeting Tuesday morning, city-county 911 Director Paul Nave said deactivated cell phones can still be used to call 911. But when a person uses a phone from a closed cellular account to make a 911 call, dispatchers can't call the person back if the call is dropped.

"It's a false sense of security," Nave said after the meeting. "On a normal (cell phone), if we get disconnected, we can call you back." With a deactivated cell phone, however, "if we lose you and you're screaming for help, you're helpless."?

Deactivated cell phones only tell dispatchers the location of the cellular tower that routed the call, Nave said.

More than 82 percent of all 911 calls to Owensboro-Daviess County combined dispatch come from cell phones -- compared to a national average of 70 percent, Nave said. Of those cellular 911 calls, 28 percent of them come from phones from deactivated cellular accounts.

Only a handful of those 911 calls from deactivated phones are actual emergencies, Nave said.

Art Ealum, chief of the Owensboro Police Department and co-chair of the 911 board, said, "All too often, parents give those old phones to their 2-year-olds to play with. They don't realize the downside."

City Fire Chief Steve Mitchell said there was one case where a child was able to call 911 from a deactivated phone and get medical treatment for a relative that was suffering complications from diabetes.

"He literally saved her life from a deactivated phone," Mitchell said. "I realize it's one (call) out of 5,000, but still, I can't help but keep thinking of that one time."

The board approved creating educational videos to encourage people to discard deactivated cell phones. Nave said he would like to have the videos completed in January and ready for broadcast on public access television.

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In other business Tuesday, Mitchell said he was concerned about an incident where a person with a personal medical alert device -- which are used to contact 911 dispatch -- was used to report a robbery. The person activated the device but could not speak, so emergency crews did not know the incident was not a medical emergency.

"That placed firefighters at the scene of a robbery in progress," Mitchell said.

Firefighters only notify law enforcement on medical emergencies if they have to force entry into a residence, Mitchell said.

Mitchell asked the board to consider dispatching law enforcement any time a person activates a personal medical alert device. Calls from such devices happen at a rate of "at least probably one a day," Mitchell said.

"If people are going to use them for all hazards, should we have (law enforcement) going on all of them?" Mitchell asked.

Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain, who is co-chair of the 911 board, said, "I'm reluctant to dictate policy based on isolated incident." Cain asked the board to accumulate data on emergency calls from personal medical alert devices before taking any action.

"If there's a need, we can amend our policy to meet whatever the need is," Cain said.

James Mayse, 691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com

Copyright 2012 - Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.

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Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.
James Mayse
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