Kern County authorities urge public to avoid misusing 911 amid rise in non-emergency calls

June 26, 2024 /

Public Information Officer for the Kern County Fire Department Andrew Freeborn talking about the misuse of calling 911 at the Kern Public Health Mt. Vernon Avenue headquarters on June 24. (Haley Duval/Kern Sol News)       

The Kern County Public Health department and several emergency leaders held a press conference to address the over misuse of calling 911 in Kern County at the Kern Public Health Mt. Vernon Avenue headquarters on June 24.        

The “Call to Action” conference came after authorities received a rise of 911 calls. This year it was reported 40 percent of these 911 calls in Kern County were non-emergent medical calls, officials said. 

“Every time our emergency medical technicians and or our paramedics respond to a non-emergency medical call, they become unavailable to help someone else. And if that person is having a true life threatening medical emergency, they may not get their needed care as quickly as they should,” officials said. 

As of June 24, EMS Program Manager Jeff Fariss said if their numbers remain consistent, the County expects to exceed 13 thousand 911 calls for the month of June. 

EMS Program Manager Jeff Fariss explaining the rise of 911 calls for the month of June. (Haley Duval/Kern Sol News)       

“That exceeds any month during the pandemic. We all know injuries and medical issues can often be overwhelming and frightening but we also want to ensure that we are all responsibly using our 911 services appropriately for the health and safety of our community. We need to work together to assure that an ambulance is readily available for life threatening emergencies,” Fariss said.  

To help to decrease this issue, Fariss said only call 911 for a life threatening emergency, such as, but not limited to, symptoms of a heart attack, chest pain radiating into the shoulder and the arm,  sudden onset of shortness of breath,  sudden weakness or dizziness, how about signs of a stroke, sudden slurred speech, sudden severe headache, weakness, and numbness to one side of the body. 

“It’s important to know that taking an ambulance to the hospital does not guarantee you will be seen first. Hospitals use a system of triage which ensures that the most sick or critically ill will be seen first. Call 988 for any mental health crisis,” Fariss said. 

Public Information Officer for the Kern County Fire Department Andrew Freeborn said each year the Kern County Emergency Communication Dispatchers receive approximately 500,000 calls.

“To put that into perspective, that’s about one call every single minute.”  Freeborn explained. 

Every time 911 is misused, it slows down the system for real emergencies, and it even creates potential for other emergencies to occur that were not necessary, he explained. 

Freeborn said 911 is not an information hotline. “Please don’t burden down the system,” he said. 

As a rural provider with a limited amount of resources in the Kern River Valley and Ridgecrest areas, Brian Baskin from Liberty Ambulance said they are acutely aware of how important it is that people only call 911 during a real emergency.

“If we follow this simple rule, we can hopefully assure that ambulances are available for everyone. Available for people with real emergencies. So in one voice we remind the community to call 911 only when there’s a real emergency,” Baskin said.

Haley Duval

Haley is a reporter for Kern Sol News since December of 2023. She was born and raised in East Bakersfield and went to Foothill High School. Haley studied Journalism at Bakersfield College. When Haley is not reporting, she enjoys writing poetry, reading, traveling and spending time with friends and family. She can be reach at