Most people know to dial 911 in an emergency, but Burbank Police say
few know that when they dial that number from their wireless phones,
it might take up to 10 minutes for them to reach local police.
That’s because all wireless 911 calls are currently routed to CHP
dispatchers, who then have to connect callers with a local police or
“Depending on what their call load is, you might wait 10 minutes
for someone to pick up,” Burbank Police Lt. Roger Mason said.
Mason recalled a car crash a couple months ago where the caller on
a wireless phone had to wait for the CHP and then was transferred to
Burbank Fire dispatchers before police were notified.
“We found out about that when we heard the sirens from the fire
department,” he said.
In order to avoid those kinds of delays, Sgt. William Berry
recommended that Burbank residents program the department’s local
number, 238-3000, into their wireless phones.
That number connects to the same dispatchers as 911, who will ask the caller if the situation is an emergency.
“That phone sits on the same desk and is answered by the same
people [as 911],” he said. “It’s just as fast.”
While the local number will connect callers to Burbank
dispatchers, police said that when people are outside of the city
they should still dial 911 from their wireless phones.
Mason said state officials are working to upgrade the system so
wireless calls connect with local dispatchers, but the many different
providers and technologies used for mobile calls makes it difficult.
Such an upgrade is currently underway, but Mason said any cellular
towers that touch a freeway area will still be required to be routed
through CHP. In Burbank, he said that means calls in 70% of the area
would still go to CHP even after the system is upgraded.
Eventually, Mason believes the number of wireless phones will
allow people to contact police faster, but he said streamlining the
system will probably take another two to three years.
“When this system is better developed, I think it’s going to
provide tremendous public safety support,” he said. “Right now, the
technology is holding us back.”