The Mobile County Communications District touted its call takers and dispatchers on April 15 in recognition of National Telecommunicators Week.

MCCD Director Gary Tanner called the 20 call takers working for the communications district “the first of the first responders” and praised their hard work.

Mobile County Sheriff's Office dispatchers work within the Mobile County Communications District.

Mobile County Sheriff's Office dispatchers work within the Mobile County Communications District.

Last year alone, the employees — who work four-person shifts — took more than 404,047 calls. Dispatch supervisors also said MCCD operators can also see as many as 700 calls during a regular 12-hour shift.

Of those calls, Tanner says more than 96 percent were answered within 15 seconds in 2014. Tanner said keeping those response times low has a positive effect on the ISO ratings for the area, which most insurance companies use to determine their premiums for fire insurance.

The MCCD works with dispatchers from the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office, Mobile County EMS, Mobile Fire Department and the Mobile Police Department. However, its operators also take calls for 10 other smaller municipalities throughout the county.

Tanner also took the opportunity at the press conference to address a growing number of abandoned or dropped calls, which he claims have become a problem operators run into more frequently because of the number of children playing with old or unpaid cellphones.

“Abandoned calls come in to our 911 center and most of time they are either hung up very quickly or it is someone we can’t communicate with, usually a child,” Tanner said. “If a child is playing with a cell phone that doesn’t have minutes left on it, that phone can still dial 911 if the battery is live.”

Tanner said when calls come in from an unregistered cell phone, it shows up with a “999” area code and is impossible for dispatchers to track. However, because operates take each call received at 911 seriously, Tanner said those calls are handled with as much “seriousness and professionalism” as any other call.

Tanner said some calls that would be considered “abandoned,” have even led to arrests because of investigations into those dropped calls or callers who say they dialed the number by mistake.

“We encourage everyone to train their four and five year olds to dial 911 in case their mother or grandmother has a problem, and we want to continue that because we do respond,” Tanner said. “If the call comes in and we do feel there may be a problem we dispatch if we know the location. In most cases it’s just a trip for (nothing) that’s an expense to the taxpayers of Mobile County, but we take every call seriously.”

For the time being, Tanner asked parents in Mobile County to please remove the battery from cellphones that are being played with by young children.