News : 911 Dispatch Center Workers Deal with Spike in Calls
July 3, 2012 -- One call center only had a handful of people on Friday when storms swept through the Valley. Within the past three days, they took in hundreds of calls.
"The thing to really remember is that if you're calling 911, you're using a phone line," said Staunton Police Public Information Officer Lisa Klein. "So, if you're calling 911 for something you shouldn't be, you might be keeping someone else from calling that number."
911 communications officers are there to help keep you alive in a time of emergency. They cannot tell you when the power is coming back, and they cannot help you remove trees from your lawn.
They classify calls asking for those things abuse of the system.
"It's continuously rolling," said Dispatch Team Leader Stacey Sullivan. "They hang up with one. They're answering the next one. And if you're bombarding the center with calls, then trying to get a police department, fire department, rescue squad out, it's taking away from them getting dispatched to help people that need it."
In the first three hours after Friday's storm, the Staunton 911 dispatch center took 300 calls. By Monday morning, that one center alone sent out 630 teams to help people in need.
That center is manned by only 3 people. They said they do not have time to deal with inappropriate calls in a time of crisis.
"Those are some awesome dispatchers in there," said Klein. "I mean, they really do a good job and they handle and juggle all of that information beautifully. But they're only three people. "
Another thing to remember, calling more than once after you spoke with a dispatcher, is not going to get help there any faster.
"When you call back time and time again, 'Where's the rescue squad? Where's the fire department?' They're coming to you as fast as they can and they're dealing with multiple calls and we're trying to get the services out as quick as we can to people," said Sullivan.
Klein said using 911 services properly allows emergency crews to better serve the community.
"We just want to serve the public as best we can, and we can serve you better if you're using our services appropriately," said Klein.
The best way to make sure your call is not going to be rejected, ask yourself if you feel your life is threatened.
Other call centers had the same response.
In Rockingham County, the ECC received more than 1,000 calls between Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On an average day, they get about 130 calls. This weekend, they answered twice as many each day.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Published: Wednesday, July 04, 2012
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