Friday, March 24, 2006

Idiots on both ends of the phone line
911 calls in Chattanooga go unanswered


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- Thousands of calls to Chattanooga's 911 call center have been going unanswered, according to records examined after a caller was unable to report a kitchen fire because three of four dispatchers were taking breaks at the same time.

Stacey Hunter and her family members called 911 from her home phone and cellular phones Monday afternoon when the fire broke out, but the calls went unanswered. Finally, Artterius Bonds, and 14-year-old nephew, Quayshaune Fountain, ended up running a half mile to get help from the fire station. No one was hurt.

"If they hadn't gone running, my house would have completely burned up," Hunter, 34, said as she stood in her scorched kitchen.

Chattanooga Police Chief Steve Parks, who oversees employees of the Hamilton County Emergency Communications District, said the department was responsible for the unanswered calls.

One dispatcher was taking calls and three others working the shift were taking a break, the chief said. He described the situation as an unacceptable failure of the 911 system…
Ah, but wait. There’s more from a different reporter…
Nonemergency calls slow 911 system

By Ginny LaRoe Staff Writer

Many area residents don’t use the 911 emergency number correctly and may be endangering others, communications officials say.

"I couldn’t quantify it, but we get a tremendous amount of calls of my car has been towed, or is there a detour around this, or they didn’t pick up my garbage," said Lee Watkins, with the Hamilton County Emergency Communications District.

Mr. Watkins said dispatchers do not ignore such calls, but they aren’t a priority and slow responses to true emergencies…

Records show about 60 percent of 911 calls in Chattanooga last year were answered in under nine seconds, or in about the time it takes for the phone to ring once. More than 3,500 of the city’s 152,957 calls to 911 in 2005 were answered after more than 50 seconds, records show.
Think about that number, 152,957. That’s 17 emergency calls every hour of every day for the entire year. Here’s some more perspective: the population of Chattanooga, TN is 154,853.

Effectively, 99% of Chattanooga's population, literally every man, woman and child required emergency service in 2005.

Funny how just a little digging changes the complexion of Bill Poovey’s story.


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