Last month alone, 911 operators took nearly one-quarter of a million phone calls and dispatched nearly 67,000 police officers, firefighters and emergency medical crews.
"Your adrenaline gets going as a dispatcher because you want to help, you want to get there as soon as you can and take care of what needs to be taken care of," said dispatcher Lisa Hennigar. "So, when that turns out to be a hoax … it's sad that people have that mindset."
On Monday police arrested Hussain Garoub, who they say called 911 more than 70 times the day before threatening violence and jihad against the United States.
"Unfortunately, you just can't ignore it," said 911 operator Gail Johnson. "You have to send on it, which takes up phone time and also the officer's time."
The Marion County 911 center is on pace to receive nearly 2 million phone calls this year. If even 1 percent of those are prank calls, officials say that would be a significant waste of public safety resources – not to mention a risk to the public.
"I think we should do whatever we can to stop that," said Lt. Col. Bar McAtee, with the Marion County Sheriff's Department. "The bottom line is that prank call may cost somebody else their life."
Officials said a restraining order was filed against Garoub preventing him from legally making any non-emergency calls to 911. He was also charged with battery and confinement unrelated to the 911 calls.