By Jennifer McGraw

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Year-round dispatchers answer the call on what is sometimes the worst day of people’s lives.

“A 911 dispatcher is the first contact our community has with the police,” said Jenna Swafford who worked as a Sacramento dispatcher for 16 years. “It can be a very rewarding job, but it can also a very difficult.

As the nation celebrates 50 years since the first 911 call was made in Alabama, here locally we began using it in 1984.

It’s so accessible now that it’s easy to forget at one point it didn’t even exist.

“You called zero, you got the operator, and they connected you with the police department,” Swafford said.

Since 2015, 911 calls have increased 13 percent and last year dispatchers took more than a half-million total calls.

“The connect ability obviously to emergency services is huge because people can get help so much quicker than they could before,” she said.

But there’s one call they never want; a made-up emergency.

“They do tie up a lot of resources on a fake call like this because we do handle it like a critical incident,” said Sgt. Vance Chandler with Sac PD.

Technology is making it easier for malicious callers to mask their identity.

Sacramento Police responded to one of those prank calls this past weekend.

“He claimed that he was armed and that he was holding people hostage,” Vance said.

A similar false call in Kansas led to officers accidentally killing an innocent man.

“It’s a big concern for us, and that’s why we screen the calls,” he added.

Last year Sacramento found to be in violation of state law because it was not answering 911 calls quick enough.

Now, police say they have hired more dispatchers and are meeting the standards of answering within 15 seconds.

But no matter what call comes in, dispatchers say they’ll always answer.

“We’re never just going to hang up,” Swafford said.

Remember, reporting a false emergency is a crime.


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