How 911 Abuse From The Elderly Can Be Minimised

| Saturday, November 3, 2012
By Priscilla Sims

Many people call 911 for genuine emergencies, and would not dream of calling the service for anything else. Increasing numbers of fake calls plague emergency service call handlers though, with many people guilty of 911 abuse who do not need any emergency services. The problem is often caused by loneliness or another sort of vulnerability, and requires education rather than sanction.

While there are a significant minority of callers who seek to cause trouble, many actually come from ignorant or vulnerable people who are often in a state of confusion. A sensitive approach often works best in this kind of case. Providing more information to people who are vulnerable, and instructing them in the appropriateness or otherwise of calls will often bring positive results.

Living alone is often a common feature of elderly people who are guilty of 911 abuse. Isolation can see some people treating the 911 service as an all-round helpline, which they think will manage whatever kind of issues they are having. The simple need for company and friendship often sees elderly individuals phone 911 when they should not.

A 911 call guarantees that someone will come out and see them, often an ambulance. This kind of call may simply be a reaction to feeling overwhelmed by life, though some fake callers can become very astute at manipulating the system after a while. The sheer basic need to speak to anyone often overrides other feelings of social responsibility.

In this kind of case, some sensitive guidance is often the best remedy for the problem. It can be a good idea to hand out materials such as leaflets and cards. These can offer details of the kind of situations in which 911 is actually needed.

It can also help if some of these materials are produced in languages other then English, as sometimes a simple misunderstanding is the real issue. Indicating just how much money a needless 911 call can cost is also a good idea. It can also be good to stress the time pressures which many first responders are under as a matter of course in their jobs.

The issues surrounding 911 abuse are often more complex than they seem, especially with regard to the elderly. Many vulnerable people use a 911 call because they are lonely or do not fully understand what the service is designed for. Education and providing good quality information is often the best tool to deal with the problems it causes for first responders and others.

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