Sept. 26--The days of calling 911 only for life-threatening emergencies are over in many places, including in DuPage County communities using DuPage Public Safety Communications to handle calls.
DU-COMM was formed in 1975 to provide public safety communications services to police, fire and emergency medical services to member departments. The agency serves county agencies, including 21 police departments and 24 fire departments and fire protection districts.
Burr Ridge, Clarendon Hills, Darien, Elmhurst, Hinsdale, Oak Brook, Oakbrook Terrace and Willowbrook are among communities using DU-COMM services.
"It is a little different in DuPage County because whenever someone needs police, fire or EMS assistance, it's handled at the same place," said Brian Tegtmeyer, DU-COMM's executive director.
"We want people, when in doubt, to call 911. They should call whenever they need assistance. You never know if it's a little thing or a big thing."
Tegtmeyer mentioned some follow-up situations in which a report already has been made and power outages as exceptions for making 911 calls.
"We get a lot of calls during power outages, which should go to ComEd," he said.
Tegtmeyer said someone could get into trouble for making a 911 call only if they made false statements.
"It would have to be malicious," he said.
Oak Brook police chief James Kruger said part of the confusion about not being sure when to call 911 comes from the great job larger cities have done in an attempt to limit calls coming into 911 centers because they also have 311 centers to handle non-emergency responses and service related calls.
Kruger said the Oak Brook Police Department has worked at getting the word out that anyone requesting to see an officer should call 911.
"Each department still maintains an administrative line, but that is used primarily for someone to contact the records department, police administration, or a particular officer or employee for follow-up or administrative needs," he said.
Kruger said if someone calls the administrative line to have an officer come to a home to take a report, they are asked to call 911 or the call is transferred there.
"In most cases, we would rather they call 911 directly so that the center would have the caller's phone information come up on their screen," he said.
Kruger noted that many departments' administrative lines are no longer answered 24 hours, so a caller would have to leave a recorded message that wouldn't be heard until the next business day and advised to hang up and call 911 if they need an immediate police response.
Hinsdale police chief Kevin Simpson said his department's general philosophy is that while the non-emergency lines remains an option, residents are encouraged to call 911 if they have any doubt.
"Consolidated dispatching has changed things, compared to when police departments had their own dispatch centers," Simpson said. "One concern was tying up the 911 lines with non-emergency business because personnel was limited at times to one dispatcher."
Simpson said that is not an issue at DU-COMM, which has designated call takers and dispatchers with specific and separate duties designed to handle greater volumes than individual dispatch centers.
Tegtmeyer said DU-COMM has at least 14 to 16 dispatchers on duty at all times.
In 2015 DU-COMM processed more than 1.1 million phone calls and more than 600,000 police and fire/EMS incidents, according to information from the agency.
Tegtmeyer said technology is being implemented that will allow all 911 calls made from cellphones to go directly to DU-COMM. Now, cellular calls go to the DuPage County Sheriff and are transferred to the appropriate dispatch center.
Tegtmeyer also suggested DuPage County residents sign up for Smart911 service, which provides and enhanced database to 911 personnel.
Signing up can be done online at www.smart911.com and allows for information about mobile phone numbers, home addresses, names of household members, pets, vehicles, medical conditions, photos, and other pertinent information to be stored for use when 911 calls come in.