LISBON - The number of 911 calls more than doubled in 2012 with integration of wireless 911 service into the county's existing landline emergency phone service.
Columbiana County 911 Director Robert Emmons reported at this week's committee meeting that 20,594 calls were made last year using 911 compared to 9,378 in 2011. He attributed this to implementation of the wireless 911, which was rolled out in phases during 2012.
"When we turned on wireless (911) you can see the dramatic change," Emmons told the committee.
Prior to last year, 911 calls made in the county by cell phone were received by dispatchers, but the system was unable to automatically pinpoint the caller's location or provide other detailed information immediately available when a 911 call is made from a landline. That problem was eliminated with implementation of wireless 911.
Not surprisingly, cell phones have become by far the largest source of 911 calls.
"Three years ago we're probably getting 50-60 percent calls from cell phones. That's dramatically changed to where we're 80-90 percent of calls are from cell phones," Emmons said.
The increasing shift from land lines to cell phones is reflected by changes in 911 funding. The voter-approved 50 cent monthly county landline phone tax used to fund 911 generated $660,861 in 2004, its first year in place. The tax generated $208,143 last year.
By comparison, the state enacted a monthly 911 cell phone tax of 28 cents (now 26 cents) starting in 2006, and last year that tax generated $252,652 for the county's system.
The number of 911 calls from cell phones is expected to increase more in 2013 once AT&T's wireless component makes the necessary changes to accommodate the county's 911 system. Emmons said AT&T told him they could not find the paperwork requesting the change over in 2012.
The 911 system does not break down how many of the 20,594 calls were for legitimate emergencies, because there are always people who chose to call 911 for non-emergencies instead of simply looking up the landline number for their police or fire department.
Emmons said it is common to receive multiple 911 calls for the same traffic accident or fire, especially from passing motorists on their cell phones.
"Now that we're receiving wireless calls, for very accident you get at least 10 calls," he said.
After the meeting, Emmons provided a breakdown of the 911 calls by dispatching center. Under county's system, 911 calls are routed to four local police departments and county sheriff's office, based on service area.
The following is a call breakdown by dispatching center and population:
Columbiana (includes Leetonia and Fairfield Township)
- 1,773 calls; 4.8 calls per day; 5.6 calls per person.
East Liverpool (includes St. Clair Township)
- 5,448 calls; 14.9 calls per day; 3.5 calls per person.
East Palestine (includes New Waterford, Rogers and Middleton and Unity townships)
- 1,799 calls; 4.9 calls per day; 7.5 calls per person.
- 1,837 calls; 5 calls per day; 6.7 calls per person.
Sheriffs Office (all remaining areas)
- 10,111 calls; 27.6 calls per day; 5.2 calls per person served.