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911 Call Centers and City Services Flooded with Calls



PLANO, TX – The last several days of winter weather have left 911 call centers and city services inundated with calls.

The Dallas Police Dept. said they’ve received almost double the amount of calls compared to the same time last year. On Feb. 17, 2020, the department received 4,542 compared to today’s 9,022 calls.

“Many of the DPD 911 call takers have been working 16-hour shifts to provide 911 services to our community. Despite their hard work, this weather event has led to delays in the handling of 911 calls. It is important to note that the weather event has led to a significant number of calls to 911 from callers reporting their electricity was out, their water lines burst, and other non-police related issues. When non-emergency events are being called into 911, others emergency calls may receive a delay in service,” said Dallas Police in a statement.

Robert Uribe, the 911 Technology and Communications Administrator for Dallas Police Dept., said that they had staff in hotels so they could be close to work. He said supervisors and managers are jumping in to take calls to help elevate the amount of calls.

“We’re trying to manage these calls as effectively as we can under these circumstances,” said Uribe.

“What I will tell you, please be patient, if you call 911 for an emergency, please hold the line, do not hang up, it’s more important that you stay on the line until we answer the phone,” said Uribe.

Uribe said they have seen extended wait times, given that they’re receiving calls not related to police or emergencies.

Greg Hutchinson, who is a real estate agent in Dallas, said he experienced the wait times.

He said he called 311 for busted pipes, but then call 911 to see if someone would answer first. He said after around 10 minutes of waiting, he heard from 311, then hung up the 911 call.

But he was concerned that if he were in a real emergency, he would have been in trouble.

“I’d probably be dead, I just, you know, I had to find something other than 911 address the issue, you know, that’s a dramatic answer to that question. But that was the first thought that crossed my mind when I hung up,” said Hutchinson.

He said he received a phone call back from a 911 dispatcher about 15 hours later.

“She seemed very sympathetic and she did say, I’m sorry that I had to wake you up for this,” he said.

Uribe said if people hang up on 911, they go into an “abandoned queue.” He said under normal circumstance they can get to those quickly and call people back, but the last several days they’ve received almost 20,000 calls when it’s usually around 10,000.

The city of Plano also saw a major spike in calls as well.

“Right now the big need is for people to have their water shut off,” said Steve Stoler, media relations director for the city of Plano.

He said on Feb. 17, 2020 they had 91 calls for service, a year later 1,395 calls.

About 390 were for police, the rest, 1,001 calls were for the fire department. He said 681 of calls dealt with water-related issues and busted pipes.

It was a similar story over in Denton.

“We’ve noticed a huge increase in calls,” Director of Customer Service and Customer Affairs for the City of Denton, Ryan Adams said. “Our calls have been up about 400% for our fire department.”

He said while they did receive 911 calls for frost bite and cases of hypothermia, a lot of the calls into the city were for the fire department or for water services to help with turning water off.

“We are experiencing an incredibly high volume, so when people call, we want them to know you may not reach a dispatch. I’m speaking on utility dispatcher, not 911, but you might not reach the person you’re looking for immediately, if you hang on the line we will get to you,” said Adams.

He said they’re working on getting more call takers as they expect an increase in the coming days as more pipes burst.

“It starts early and it ends late, it’s just been going from one site to the next,” crew leader of Denton Water Metering John Oliver said.

He said he’s responded to hundreds of calls to turn the water off.

“We definitely didn’t expect it to be this bad, but the response we’ve gotten from the city officials and city department has been really good,” said Brandy Bobbitt, a commercial property manager who was grateful for Oliver and the city’s speedy assistance after the building she managed had several busted pipes.