Fraudulent Calls and Hanging Up: PSAPs in the News

Written by KOVA Corp

Public safety access points (PSAPs) like yours are the first line of defense for Americans during some of the worst times of their lives. You’re expected to be there, 24/7, no matter how difficult the call or how hard the day. There’s no understating the importance of what you do: neglecting a call can mean the ruin—or even end—of someone’s life.

Unfortunately, an Albuquerque contact center is learning that the hard way and is facing endless scrutiny after one of its dispatchers handled a call in a very poor way.

On July 28, 17 year-old Jaden Chavez-Silver was at an Albuquerque party and became the victim of a drive-by shooting. One of his distraught friends called 911 and in a moment of frustration, used profanity. The dispatcher, Matthew Sanchez, said, “Okay, you know what, ma'am? You can deal with yourself, I'm not going to deal with this, okay?" right before the line disconnected.

Although Mr. Sanchez did dispatch an ambulance while still on the call, the shooting victim was pronounced dead at the hospital. Critics are saying the teen’s death might have been avoided if the dispatcher had stayed on the line and coached the caller in lifesaving measures.

“I don’t understand why he did what he did,” Nicole Silver, the victim’s mother, said.

The dispatcher, Matthew Sanchez, had been a 911 dispatcher for 3 years and 5 months. He quickly tendered his resignation. The Albuquerque Fire Department is now under investigation to see if Sanchez handled any other calls improperly during his tenure there.

Chris Carver, an operations director for NENA, said that hiring the right people can sometimes be more important than training. "They need to be professional at all times, detail-oriented, be able to handle stressful situations ... It isn't something everyone can do," Carver said. "It's a very specific set of skills that can be hard to find."

In the wake of this tragedy, remind your dispatchers exactly what’s at stake during each and every call—no one can afford to lose his cool or respond in any way except calmly and professionally. Review KOVA’s helpful tips on how to deal with a difficult caller, and consider calling a special meeting to remind your staff.

  • Put yourself in the caller’s shoes: they could be having the worst day of their life.
  • Take a deep breath before responding, and speak at a low tone.
  • Create a PSAP-wide signal for help and support during an especially tough call.
  • Repeat back the caller’s main points so they know you’re listening carefully.

You might also find it useful to utilize our Verint Media Recorder for Public Safety software to record, search, and evaluate your dispatchers on a regular basis to avoid the trouble the Albuquerque Fire Department is now under.

In other top news, there’s talk within the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of ending a nearly 20 year-old rule that says that wireless phones must be able to dial emergency services even after the owner stops paying for service.

The FCC says its proposal is due to popularity of low-cost plans, as well as problems the rule has created for PSAPs. In some parts of the country, 90 percent of 911 calls received from phones without service were fraudulent, and three out of four of those were made by kids playing with old phones. These false 911 calls slow down responses to legitimate calls and divert resources.

Wireless phones without service are also enjoyed by pranksters, because they’re harder to trace. These prank calls are a major distraction for dispatchers.

Still, some people are against the rule reversal. Critics say that some people rely on the wireless service without regular service for emergencies, such as lower-income, elderly, and disabled populations.

One way to deal with these fraudulent calls is to use KOVA’s Audiolog for Public Safety software, which can record calls full-time, on-demand, by event, or when scheduled. Having a record of these false calls makes it easier to identify and prosecute repeat offenders.

There’s a lot to learn for the savvy contact center supervisor who’s willing to learn from the news stories mentioned here

In the last few months, PSAPS in the news have made a splash for these top headlines. The savvy supervisor can learn from these news events and prepare themselves accordingly. Contact us at KOVA today for help upgrading your software to keep your public safety access point out of the news.

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