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Philly Fire Department Cracking Down On Non-Emergency 911 Calls

by Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Philadelphia Fire Department is fighting the misuse of the urgent call number, 9-1-1.

Officials kicked off National Emergency Services week on Tuesday by also kicking off a campaign to end ambulance calls for non-emergencies.

Emergency officials have been instructing citizens to call 9-1-1 for more than 30 years. Philadelphia's emergency services director Mike Touchstone says they've learned, maybe, a little too well.

"I was called when I was a medic to an incident where the chief complaint was my teeth itch. That is not a medical emergency. Or, how do I open my garage door. Or, I can't find my dog. You can make a strong case that they're inappropriate and put a strain on the system," said Touchstone.

He says the campaign reminds callers to use a non-emergency number in such cases. The event was the first for the new fire commissioner Adam Thiel, in his second day on the job, but it's not a new problem to him.

"Every department in the country that does emergency medical services is looking for ways to prevent those calls from occurring," said Thiel.

Thiel warns, though, to err on the side of caution and use 9-1-1 if you're not sure how serious a situation is.

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