When An Emergency Might Be Put On Hold - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

When An Emergency Might Be Put On Hold

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During severe weather events, like the one heading our way, dispatch centers will be flooded with phone calls from people in need of immediate help. When an emergency occurs in freezing temperatures and limited visibility, every second counts. But, as Valley News Team's Hope Hanselman shows us, seconds can turn into minutes when you're looking for help.
Busy season has once again rolled into the Red River Valley, when a rush hour outside means a gridlock inside the Red River Valley Dispatch Center.
"we get a lot of calls about accidents of course especially the first snow of the year the first ice of the year," Mary Phillippi, Assistant Director, described the types of calls that come in during major snow storms. "Heart attacks, when you're shoveling snow," she listed along with "falls, because its icy out and people are walking."
In 2012, this dispatch center handled 4,250 911 calls just in the 4:00 hour. It's their busiest time of day. Phillippi calls it "controlled chaos," when the five dispatchers working this shift have their hands full.
"Sometimes they do have to hold, though, because if we're really busy and we have accidents all over the city, then there's only so many police officers and fire trucks to go around," she said.
In turn, response times sometimes have to suffer. The national standard states dispatchers have to answer 911 calls within 10 seconds 90-percent of the time. The Red River Valley Dispatch Center meets that standard more than 92-percent of the time. But, more phone calls are coming in now than ever before
"If it's really busy more people will be put on hold. If it's not busy and you're calling in a barking dog, you may not ever be put on hold," she said.
But rest easy, this center took 10,000 more 9-1 calls in 2012 than just five years ago and, still, they won't put anyone in immediate danger on hold. They're the road blocks and red lights of a safe winter.
Phillippi says she would never discourage anyone from calling 911. She says most calls during extreme winter weather come from cell phones when people are reporting an accident they drove past on the interstate. So, to help everyone out, Phillippi offers some advice. Pay attention to mile markers along the interstates and highways, you'll need to tell dispatch exactly where you are. Also, look for additional information about an accident that might help response teams, like how many people are involved.


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