The campaign's goal is to inform the public of the proper use of 9-1-1. | Joseph Pack/Mustang News

Samantha Pryor

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The Cal Poly University Police Department (UPD) is collaborating with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) to launch a pilot education campaign geared toward reducing the number of non-emergency calls placed to 9-1-1 dispatch centers.

According to the Cal OES 2014 fact sheet, 26 million 9-1-1 calls were placed last year in California. Up to 35 percent of the total calls were unintentional or not true emergencies.

“Our fear is that when there is an actual emergency and you call 9-1-1, you will get a busy signal,” UPD Chief George Hughes said.

UPD is one of the five organizations selected through CAL OES to run the pilot, or trial program, in California. The remaining four include Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department, Elk Grove Police Department, Anaheim Police Department and Shasta Area Communications Agency. If the campaign is successful in the pilot programs, it may be included in other law enforcement agencies.

According to a Cal OES press release, the purpose of the campaign is to inform and educate the public about the proper use of 9-1-1 and what situations constitute a real emergency

“It is an important aspect not just for us but for all communities,” Hughes said. “It’s an issue that I would say the entire nation is dealing with.”

In 2013, Emergency Call Tracking System (ECaTS) found there were 25.7 million 9-1-1 calls placed in California. UPD received more than 2,700 of these calls.

Hughes reported that the majority of non-emergency calls are received from the blue emergency phones placed throughout campus.

“When you push the red button on the blue phone, it comes through to 9-1-1,” he said. “Those are a high misuse percentage for us.”

Through public events and advertising in print, radio and online media, UPD plans to educate the public on when it’s appropriate to call 9-1-1 and where to call for non-emergencies.

According to Hughes, UPD is taking initiative to get the word out both on and off campus.

In addition to press releases, there will be public service announcements, booths on campus and safety messages attached to Poly Alerts, which students already receive on their cell phones.

The 9-1-1 campaign has become part of the standard educational outreach on campus. UPD plans to partner with Associated Students, Inc. and resident halls to post information in common areas.

Hughes foresees the pilot expanding and more organizations becoming involved.

“We are a very transit community because we have constant overturning of population,” he said. “It’s something I see that we will have to continue to really push out every year, especially to educate those new residents that come in, whether you are living on (or off) campus.”

Hughes stressed the importance of having the community know about San Luis Obispo County’s 2-1-1 phone number, which can be used to get non-emergency information.

“We are trying to educate people to not call 9-1-1, but to call 2-1-1 to get information about where to go and what to do,” Hughes said.

Students and San Luis Obispo residents can find more information about the campaign by referring to the UPD website.

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