HERNANDO – With Hernando County Fire Rescue inundated with dozens of fires, smoke investigation, vehicle accidents, and medical calls; dealing with even a few unfounded reports or false alarms can put unnecessary strain on resources, and even place the community at risk.
Over the last year, RNRF has observed fire rescue respond to dozens of accident reports that were all unfounded. The reports were not intentional; rather, they were false activations from a CarLink, a system similar to Onstar that notifies 911 in the event of a collision. The vehicle in question; a grey, 2014, Volkswagen Jetta, owned by someone living in the area of Coronado Drive and Linden Drive, and apparently, they have no idea the activations have occurred.
Every time an activation is sent to 911, Fire Rescue responds emergency with an Engine and Rescue Unit to the location provided by CarLink. In addition, the Sheriff’s Office dispatches a deputy and traffic aids to assist in case there is an actual accident.
Anytime fire rescue or law enforcement respond lights and sirens there is an enhanced risk to other traffic on area roadways. In addition, when an engine or rescue from one station is en route to a false call, it may cause delays when a more distant rescue is forced to respond to an actual emergency. And of course there is the cost of responding to false calls, which falls on the backs of the taxpayer.
RNRF contacted Hernando County Fire Assistant Chief James Billotte who confirmed that the incidents were occurring but says they have no choice but to respond.
I asked Hernando County Sheriff’s Office Representative, Denise Moloney if there was anything they could do to resolve the problem and how much it cost HCSO to respond to each call; she said, “Sgt. Reak advised me he knows of two incidents, one of which he responded to himself. I’m not sure how I could answer the other question (how much it costs).” I explained that there were far more than just two incident, so after further investigation Moloney said, “Sgt. Reak spoke to a representative from the company and they are looking into the matter. The particular device that is activating is from and account that is not in service.” She goes on to say, “They are handling internally.”
We requested the car owner’s information but Moloney said that it was not public information.
It is not known if CarLink or anyone will be responsible for recovering the cost responding to dozens of false reports.
According to one source, the average cost for Fire Rescue to respond to a car accident is approximately $250.00, but that is just to arrive on scene. So with an estimated 50 calls over the last year, taxpayers will be responsible for an estimated $12,500 in unanswered expenses and that doesn’t include Law Enforcement.
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