Feb 21, 2012 8:22 PM by Matt Stafford

Problems that slow down Springs' 911 system

The Colorado Springs Police Department is looking into its 9-1-1 system after complaints at City Council that calls were going unanswered. News 5 has been told the emergency communications center is staffed 24 hours a day, but things can clog up the system -- like calls that really aren't emergencies.

Last Thursday night; one man is shot and killed near the busy intersection of Academy Boulevard and Galley Road. While crews were arriving, it was very busy for 911 operators in Colorado Springs.

"About 35 to 40 calls in a matter of less than two minutes," says Tiny Young, Communications Manager for CSPD and CSFD. "Several callers were not able to get through to 911; it just rang, so they would hang up and then call back."

Young says those hang-ups slow down the system because operators have to call every one of them back to make sure the caller is okay.

"We were getting to the phones as quickly as we can," says Young. "When you have a high-profile call like that it inundates the system quickly."

It doesn't have to be a shooting. It could be an accident on I-25; like a truck, hauling hay, that flipped over near Bijou St. earlier this month. Lots of passersby usually mean lots of 911 calls.

The center has anywhere from five to 10 people answering calls at anytime, and they've got to take in information fast; gathering what detectives and crews are going to need at the scene.

"Is he cooperative?" asks a 911 operator on a call Tuesday. "Any weapons involved or mentioned?"

But, in between those emergency calls, some others come in that slow the system down.

Here are a few calls the department shared with us:

"Colorado Springs 911; I received a call from this number. Is there a fire, police, or medical emergency?" The operator asks on a return call to a hang-up.

"Oh, Lord no," the caller says. "I gave the phone to my little nephew and he was playing around with it; I'm sorry."

Another caller said, "Basically a noise complaint; not really an emergency."

Young says a lot of callers ask for information that they should be finding somewhere else.

"Not quite sure if it's an emergency; I'm trying to get my son out of jail," one 911 caller asks the operator.

Emergency Response Technician Marcus Smith says hang-ups make up a lot of the calls he takes.

"A lot of pocket dials," says Smith. "I mean every now and then it will be an actual emergency."

"Any time somebody hangs up, we have to call them back," says Young. "If we're processing a call that's not an emergency, we could be missing a call that is an emergency."

An example Young uses is if you discover that someone has broken into your car. Young says most people would call 911, but that's a situation where you should call the police department directly.

Emergency operators want to remind you that 911 calls should be reserved for fires, life and death medical emergencies, and crimes that are in-progress.

If you are calling police for any other reason, they ask that you use the department's main line (444-7000).



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