Some Residents Say their 911 Calls Going Unanswered

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By Ashley Thompson

Some residents say their 911 calls are not getting through to police during emergencies.

Instead, they say they're hearing busy signals and getting recordings. Emergency officials want to respond to calls within 15 seconds but sometimes that just doesn't happen.

 

After a MATS bus caught on fire Tuesday afternoon, Montgomery resident Jesse Conte says he grabbed his phone and dialed 911. But there was one problem.

Murphy says there should never be a busy signal when you call 911.

Officials with the Department of Public Safety say they now have a separate funding source that comes from the state.

They hope this extra money will help them fully staff their 911 call center.

 

"It was busy so we never did get through," he says. "We called several times and just kept getting busy signals."

It's something Public Safety Director Chris Murphy says can happen, due to a spike in calls when a significant event occurs.

"You schedule your employees for your call volume, not a spike," he says. "And when you schedule for call volume and you have two people call out sick then it's difficult."

But it's not just a spike in calls that prevents 911 dispatchers from answering quickly. Murphy says over the past two years, the department has had problems recruiting and retaining dispatchers.

"It is a stressful job," he explains. "It is not like answering phones for telemarketers or things like that. You literally can be trying to walk somebody through child birth or CPR."

Conte says although he didn't get through to 911, he didn't make too much of it.

"I thought, well someone else is trying to call in. It's just being flooded with so many callers driving by, maybe everybody was just flooding the lines."

And he was right.

52 calls were taken regarding the MATS bus fire within a 10 minute span. But Murphy says no matter your emergency, do NOT hang up after calling 911, even if you reach an answering recording or the phone rings for a while, because you'll lose your spot in line.

"Unfortunately, if someone calls and they get frustrated and they hang up and say, well I'm just going to call again, we have to answer that hung up call before we go to the next one."



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