Lake Havasu City Council takes first step toward fee for excessive 911 calls

April 10, 2019

The Lake Havasu City Council took a step toward enacting a fee for unnecessary and excessive 911 calls at its meeting Tuesday.

The fee, which couldn’t be adopted before the May 7 meeting, could charge up to $280 if someone calls 911 and a first responder arrives nine or more times in a 30-day period for a non-emergency situation.

Fire Chief Brian Davis’s desire to seek such a fee is the result of three specific instances where a person repeatedly called 911 for situations that weren’t true emergencies.

According to Lake Havasu City Fire Department records, a single location in Havasu contacted emergency dispatchers 290 times in a 13-month period between January 2018 and January 2019 — an average of almost six calls per week.

“The person was contacting us because he knew we’d come,” Davis said. “He didn’t want to leave his home because he didn’t want to stop smoking or making some of the other unhealthy choices that he was doing if he would’ve went to a personal care home.

“We understand this is a sensitive issue, but the calls were more of a social service situation than an emergency.”

Davis explained that some people understand when they call 911 and push the button on their medical alert pendant and a call comes to see what is going on and the person doesn’t respond, the person knows that fire or police will respond. He also said they’ve received calls from people asking them to feed their cat or take laundry out of the washer and place it in the dryer.

Davis said he doesn’t anticipate sending such bills, either.

“Our goal is to educate folks on this,” Davis said. “And we don’t want people to be worried about calling 911, but there was an occasion when we had to respond to a non-emergency call and it slowed our response to an actual call.”

The man that called nearly 300 times did end up going to a personal care home.

Mayor Cal Sheehy said there were two other instances where individuals called 55 times and 35 times, respectively.

Councilman Gordon Groat asked how calls in mental health situations would be treated and Davis said they wouldn’t be counted.

“We’ll never eliminate the issue entirely, but we can try to reduce it,” Davis said.

Councilwoman Michele Lin questioned if there was a way to refer such callers in non-emergency situations.

“That’s something we already do,” Davis said.

Davis also said that people who are home after a surgery and are in need of post-operative care, their calls wouldn’t be part of a count.

“We also realize that in many instances, the situation resolves itself, either by the person’s passing or them going to a care home,” Davis said.

Scott Shindledecker can be reached at 928-453-4237 or sshindledecker@havasunews.com.