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A Callaway resident called 911 last Friday about midday to have a tick removed.

The Lexington Park Volunteer Rescue Squad responded and took the person to the hospital in Leonardtown at the lowest priority — “a fairly low-test call,” Chief Shawn Davidson said. Priority 1 is a life-and-death case, and Priority 4 is called when someone has died.

Davidson could not get into the specifics of the call because of privacy laws, but said there was a tick involved and there was an ambulance ride to the hospital.

“If someone calls 911 for an ambulance, we do not discriminate — we dispatch,” said Bob Kelly, director of the St. Mary’s County Department of Emergency Services and Technology. “That is the policy.”

When someone calls in with a medical complaint, “we don’t know” the exact nature of the issue until paramedics arrive, he said.

“The challenge is educating the public,” he said. “There are calls made to the emergency center that maybe shouldn’t be made.”

“I think that is valid to do some public education,” Davidson said.

Sometimes people call an ambulance for a headache, a nosebleed or an anxiety attack.

The call for the tick removal in Callaway last Friday was listed as a sick person in the computer-aided dispatch system. Another 911 call a few minutes later came from Mechanicsville for a gunshot wound to the head.

“These people making these frivolous calls ... it’s very dishonoring to those volunteering,” Kelly said.

In St. Mary’s County, paramedics and firefighters are volunteers. They are not paid for their time.

Those taking 911 calls are paid, working 12-hour shifts. Kelly said dispatchers attempt to identify the call type and send the appropriate first responder to the scene. The dispatching protocols are based upon national standards and have been reviewed by local emergency responders.

“We don’t always get the complete/correct information from the initial call for a number of reasons,” Kelly said. It can be a high-stress situation, a young caller or limited information known by the caller, he said.

“It is true that we receive 911 calls for situations that may not truly be emergency situations, however, we want to be careful not to discourage proper use of 911,” Kelly wrote in an email. “If folks are unsure when to call 911 the www.911.gov/whencall.html website provides very good guidance. An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police, fire department or ambulance.”

The department of emergency services and technology has money budgeted to educate the public about emergency preparedness, when to call 911, volunteer opportunities and siren awareness.

jbabcock@somdnews.com