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Officials: Use 911 for Hurricane Irma, not social media

Fort Lauderdale Deputy Chief Timothy Heiser stressed that crews will not be monitoring social media on a regular basis

By FireRescue1 Staff

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Officials and experts advised people to use 911 instead of social media in cases of emergency during Hurricane Irma.

Sun-Sentinel reported that people turned to social media for help during Hurricane Harvey after having to wait hours to talk to a 911 dispatcher.

“People need to utilize the 911 system, because we are not going to be monitoring social media at all times,” Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Timothy Heiser said. “We can’t have people rely on social media to call for help.”

Chief Heiser did, however, remind people that responders will not be active during the storm.

“After winds reach 55 mph, fire trucks will blow over and we have to take shelter,” Chief Heiser said. “We’ll be out as long as we can until it’s too dangerous to respond. Once we get the all clear and can go out again, we’ll respond to those stacked calls. If everybody loads up on social media, there is a danger of duplicate calls that could divert responders from emergencies.”

Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue spokesman Mike Jachles said residents must evaluate their situation before calling 911.

“911 is for life and death emergencies and should be used for that only,” Jachles said. “You’re having a heart attack. You’re in your house, your shutters are up and there is a fire and you can’t get out. Those are life and death emergencies. If you have a sprained ankle, that’s not a life-threatening emergency.”

“A non-emergency is you may see a tree down or on top of your car,” Jachles added. “We know it’s important. But unless there is an inherent danger to someone’s life, it is not life-threatening.”