911 center phones clogged with non-emergency calls

Officials: Non-emergency calls filling up the phone lines

COLUMBIA, Mo - The 911 Operations Center in Columbia says their phone lines are being clogged with calls that are classified as non-emergencies.

The center told ABC 17 News that in 2012, 65 percent of the calls that were taken were not actual emergencies.

Those calls tie up operators from dealing with real emergencies.

One such incident happened Tuesday night, when a Columbia woman was arrested for misusing emergency services.

Police say Veronica Thrower, 47, called 911 operators at least 14 times in under four hours. In one instance, she told the operator she was on her way home.

911 Operations Center employee Brian Maydwell said, "If somebody called in about a parking violation and someone was calling with a heart attack on the same line, and all our operators were busy on non-emergency calls at the time, it would actually delay our response to a 911 call."

Other phone calls the center gets are callers asking for the time, when a sporting event begins, what the bus schedule is, and questions about parking violations.

At minimum staffing, there is one operator for the entire Columbia and Boone County area. According to the 2012 U.S. Census, more than 160,000 people live in Boone County.

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