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Regional Responders Urge 9-1-1 Education
Press conference scheduled to highlight appropriate use of emergency response system

Media Release
For Immediate Release

Contact: Scott Oxarart
775.328.2414 or 775.276.1021

Reno, NV – An increase in non-emergency calls to 9-1-1 is placing a strain on dispatchers, first responders, and healthcare organizations. These calls could impact the response to individuals who have real life-threatening emergencies. Regional agencies want to highlight this growing concern during May, a month that honors Police and EMS personnel with weeklong recognitions nationwide. 

According to local first responders, 9-1-1 started out as a simple concept. When a citizen is in need a phone call can be placed for emergency response.  But over the last several years there has been increased demand on the pre-hospital and healthcare systems, which is why it is important to ensure the 9-1-1 system is used for its intended purpose: life-threatening emergency calls. 

While agency representatives acknowledge that the public has been well educated about using the universal system for reporting emergencies, the definition of an emergency is based on the perception of the citizen reporting the situation. According to an on-going survey of residents for the Washoe County Community Health Needs Assessment, approximately 10% of citizens did not appropriately identify situations when they should dial 9-1-1.  Additionally, 16% of respondents identified they would call 9-1-1 to report their car had been broken into the previous night, which is not an appropriate use of 9-1-1.  

Our regional response agencies want to emphasize the importance of educating citizens on the 9-1-1 system, its appropriate uses, and the challenges personnel face with its misuse.  When a call is received by a dispatch center, emergency responders are dispatched, whether it is police, fire or emergency medical personnel.  Citizens are encouraged to have a good understanding of how the 9-1-1 system works to ensure resources are available to respond to life-threatening emergencies.

  • According to the EMS Oversight Program FY 2015-2016 data analysis, approximately 20% of all calls that received an EMS response in Washoe County, with potential ambulance transport to a hospital, were categorized as non-emergency. 
  • During a thirteen month period, an estimated 18% of 9-1-1 calls received by City of Sparks Dispatch Center were hang-ups or calls which were not actual crimes.
  • Reno Dispatch reported that over the past three years 14% of their annual call volume was due to accidental 9-1-1 dials.

Dispatchers request that if a citizen does accidentally call 9-1-1, please stay on the line to confirm that you are not having an emergency. 

The Community Health Needs Assessment survey indicates that approximately 20% of respondents reported they have used an emergency room at least once in the past 12 months.  Regional emergency departments have been impacted by an increase in patient volume.  It is important for citizens to be aware of community resources that could better meet their needs for non-emergency medical situations.  

For non-emergencies, individuals could call:

  • 775-858-1000: The REMSA Nurse Health Line, which is designed for individuals who have minor medical problems or questions.
  • 775-334-COPS (2677): The non-emergency number for the City of Reno.
  • 775-785-WCSO (9276): The non-emergency number for the unincorporated areas of Washoe County.
  • 775-353-2231: The non-emergency number for City of Sparks.
  • 775-887-COPS (2677): The non-emergency number for Carson City Sheriff’s Office.
  • 775-887-FIRE (3473): The non-emergency number for Carson City Fire Department.
  • Nevada 2-1-1: An agency that provides information and referrals for health, human and social service organizations. 

Some general guidelines for 9-1-1 are:

  • 9-1-1 is for police, fire and medical emergencies. It is not for matters like neighbor complaints, general medical questions, having a sick pet, or reporting a broken fire hydrant.
  • Be sure to lock your phone before putting it in your purse or pocket.
  • If you and/or others are not in immediate harm or danger use your respective jurisdictional non-emergency line. 


Media is invited to the Regional Emergency Operations Center at 5195 Spectrum Blvd, Reno, at 10 am on Tuesday, May 23, to interview agency representatives from regional police, fire, REMSA, and hospitals.  The press conference coincides with National EMS Week, May 21-27, 2017. 

For more information, contact Brittany Dayton at (775) 326-6043 or at bdayton@washoecounty.us.
Call 311 to find resources, ask questions, and utilize Washoe County services. Learn More »
Call 311 to find resources, ask questions, and utilize Washoe County services. Learn More »