GUTHRIE, Okla. – While Oklahomans celebrate the Fourth of July around the holiday with fireworks, calls related to fireworks pour into 911, tying up the emergency phone lines with many non-emergencies.
Sgt. Anthony Gibbs with the Guthrie Police Department said it happens before, during, and after the holiday every year.
“’Hey, I hear shots fired, I’m absolutely convinced that those are gunshots,’” he said as just one example of the many calls they get.
“The dispatcher during Fourth of July spends more time on the phone than off,” Sgt. Gibbs said.
Officers will check every potential emergency that comes in, but often those gunshots turn out to be fireworks.
“[Dispatchers] are going to ask them to describe what it is that they heard, and then try to determine from that whether or not it’s from the after effect of the firework,” Sgt. Gibbs said, “and then we can prioritize calls.”
It’s not just calls about possible gunshots, though. Some people are simply calling because they’re bothered by the what may be legal fireworks around them. This, too, contributes to the dozens of calls keeping 911 tied up.
“If somebody has an accident, if somebody is needing an ambulance, if somebody has been injured, we want to make sure that those calls get the priority that they need,” Sgt. Gibbs said.
He doesn’t want people to feel deterred from calling in something they believe to be gunshots.
“If they don’t know the difference, if they really think there are gunshots, go ahead and call anyway,” Sgt. Gibbs said.
But there is a non-emergency line in the city and the county for a reason.
“If fireworks going off are not an emergency, meaning it hasn’t landed on a house, it’s not possibly about to cause a fire, then I recommend call the non-emergency number and keep from having the 911 line and that operator constantly having to answer the 911 line.”