Recorded messages during Montgomery 911 calls leading to frustra

Recorded messages during Montgomery 911 calls leading to frustration

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

When you dial 911, you want an immediate response. But WSFA 12 News found citizens who say they tried to report an emergency, but couldn't get through.

 "I dialed 911, nobody answered…ring, ring, ring," said Rosa Ford, who called 911 to report a shootout in her neighborhood. "I dialed 911 again, nobody answered."

Ford eventually reached a dispatcher, who told her someone else had reported the incident

We took Ford's concerns to Larry Fisher, Director of Communications for the City of Montgomery.

"15 seconds, we must answer the initial call," Fisher said. "If we're overloaded, too many calls coming in, then we have 40 seconds to reach that caller."

Fisher said what Ford experienced  can happen in certain cases. She called between three and five in the afternoon, the busiest time for dispatchers.  And now that most people have wireless phones, more people are calling. 

"If it's a call such as an accident on I-85, that we are probably receiving multiple calls on that. Certainly, shots fired in a local area, we receive multiple calls on that. They just need to bear with us."

Dispatchers now receive more than 300,000 calls a year. Volume is up 12% from 2012 to 2013, on top of an 11% increase from 2011 to 2012. About 80% of calls are now from wireless phones, up from 50% just four years ago.

"We react to all of the calls exactly the same way," Fisher said. "We get to them as quickly as we can, we process them as quickly as we can, and we get a response rolling as quickly as we can."

Fisher said if it takes 40 seconds for a dispatcher to answer, callers are sent to a message that advises them to hold the line. Fisher said dispatch times can be increased if callers decide to hang up.

"We don't want them to hang up. If they hang up, they go into a queue. And if they turn around and call back again, that call is at the bottom of the queue."

Fisher said the center plans to hire more dispatchers in the upcoming year. Next generation technology is also being installed which will allow more capacity for wireless phones along with the capability for people to text or even send video during an emergency. 

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