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ECPD helps kids understand ‘rules' when dialing 911


Staff Writer

Feline lovers may disagree, but a cat stuck in a tree does not justify a call to 911.

That's part of the message Maria Birdsall and Sara Ridgeway of the El Centro Police Department were intent on getting across to kindergartners at Booker T. Washington Elementary School in El Centro on Friday morning.

"And you don't make a trick call to 911 either," volunteered 5-year-old kindergarten student Stephanie Belreal.

Birdsall, the department's support services manager and Ridgeway, a dispatcher, were at the school to present a new outreach program that explains the purpose and the "rules" of the 911 system.

Called "The Great 911 Adventure," the purpose of the program is to decrease misuse of the emergency number by children.

With the aid of a kid-friendly video, posters and stickers, Birdsall and Ridgeway explained to the children that making a prank call to the emergency number makes it difficult for dispatchers to send emergency responders where they are really needed.


The children were also introduced to the concept of "911 Heroes." These are children who have dialed 911 in an emergency with the result that a life has been saved.

Interviewed before the presentation, Birdsall said the majority of "hang-up" calls are usually made from pay phones by children on the way home from school.

Statewide, 20 percent of all telephone calls to 911 are "abandoned" calls and many of these calls are made by children ages 4 through 7, according to figures released by the California Department of Education in a June press release.

>>Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or

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