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911 calls go unanswered

READ MORE: 911 calls go unanswered
Everyone knows to call 911 in an emergency, but what happens if no one answers? It's a question some New Hanover County residents were forced to answer over the weekend. “It rang and rang and rang and rang, and no one answered,” said Kathy Boone. Around 6:30 Saturday night, neighbors noticed a fire at Johnson Farms the Lakes in New Hanover County. They immediately called 911. “I had my cell phone on this ear and her house phone on the other ear," Boone said, "and they were just ringing and ringing.” Fellow neighbor John Cumbus said, “My wife tried three times to get 911 and the phone rang, nobody was there.” About five neighbors called to report the house fire at 5103 Everett Court. They say they couldn't believe no one answered their calls. “I shut my eyes and I was like, wake up because you're dreaming," Boone said. "I really thought I was dreaming for a moment." After about five minutes of failed attempts to get through to 911, one neighbor called the sheriff's department for help. “On the third try with that she was told the fire department was on the way,” Cumbus said. After that, neighbors say the fire department was there within minutes, but they're not letting 911 operators off the hook just yet. “It's pretty uncomfortable," Boone said. "I’ve got two small children so, it's very concerning." Neighbors say a firefighter told them 911 was just too flooded with calls when neighbors tried to report the fire. One neighbor says 911 operators did eventually call back, but by that time firefighters were already on their way. Emergency services says it's looking into why the calls weren't answered.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.


Cut their pay, furlough them, post their salaries in the paper..

layoff their friends and people are less enthusiastic about their jobs. Is anyone surprised by this?

Oh, that's a great idea.

Oh, that's a great idea. They don't have enough people to answer the phones when a cluster of 9-1-1 calls come in for the same incident, and you want fewer call takers and telecommunicators?!! That's like complaining about the service in a busy restaurant and demanding they fire the only waitress And if you really want to know how much they're NOT getting paid, their salaries are public information. I guarentee you that they don't get paid what they deserve; primarily dealing with uneducated jerks like you who "pay their salary."

911 records while you wait

Not sure if this is true. My understanding is that while your call to 911 is ringing, all that you say is being recorded even though nobody is speaking to you. Can someone let me know if this is true? & would this have made a difference over the weekend on the unanswered calls?


Ok, everyone has put in their point of view here. I for one totally respect 911 Telecommunicators as I have been one myself. However, the issue here is that NO ONE answered several 911 phone calls. You have to be on that end, not getting an answer when you deparately need help. This is not acceptable. Based on what we know so far, it sounds like indeed the system overloaded. With this in mind and not finger pointing, it would sound like their needs to more trunk lines (more than the 12) comming into the 911 center, additional staff to deal with the volume, and a re-check into why the calls were not re-routed over to Brunswick 911 as that is the back-up 911 center for NHCO. Sounds like we should be starting with these issues first and moving forward in a way that rectifies the problem.

I worked at the 911 center

I worked at the 911 center for a long time and yes telecommunicators aren't given enough credit. They work their ass off and when people call they wanted someone there yesterday. What the citizen of the county need to be concerned about is that there aren't enough people working in the center becasue the county is cutting essential jobs.(for those who don't know what that means is the ones who actually do the work.) Not only does you 911 center not have enough people, your fire dept and ems agencies are in the same boat. Ems is taking down 911 ambulances down. That is what you should be concerned about. Because when you call 911 what good is it going to do when there isn't someone to come and help. So you closed minded people who have nothing better to do that sit at home and arm chair quarter back everything GET A LIFE. Your emergency services don't get paid enough for the job they do!!!

Guest.....That is no

Guest.....That is no excuse..If I call 911, I expect someone to answer....plain and simple

911 NHC Dispatchers

After reading your story above, and watching your video, I felt that WWAY (Live, Local, and Interactive) could have been more INTERACTIVE in dealing with this story. The storyline, as presented, was so one-sided. This was an excellent opportunity for your media station to grasp the moment for a positive interaction and use it to educate the public about the Center's protocols and procedures. In doing so, you could have dispelled some of the public's misconceptions about the Center and their Dispatchers; some of New Hanover County's hardest working individuals. In presenting the storyline in the negative light, as you so chose to do, YOU have caused further discord, dissention, and safety concerns...Wilmingtonians do not need negative interaction; we need interaction that produces positive results. I have the upmost respect and admiration for those special Dispatchers who get up day after day to go to the Center. They work long 12 hr shifts and must eat lunch/dinner at their consoles. They monitor fire consoles for Wilm, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach, EMS, Law Channels, Wilm Police, Carolina Beach Police, Kure Beach Police, Wrightsville Beach Police, etc., there are 12 consoles and 12 dispatchers. During the incident at Johnson Farms, with some many of the neighbors calling in at one time, using multiple phone's no wonder they didn't get though- they jammed the lines. Again, the public doesn't understand protocol/procedure within the 911 Center- who better to inform and educate than the media? You have the opportunity to report "balanced" story lines that will be of a benefit to our community, please do a better job of your INTERACTION within our community.

one sided as always

I see no one bothered to contact the 9-1-1 center for a comment and has probably never even been in a 9-1-1 center for that matter. As a 9-1-1 dispatcher- we do the best we can. For every accident you see- we receive 20-30 calls on a limited amount of 9-1-1 trunks. They answer the calls as quickly as they can but many centers do not have dedicated call takers, the call taker is also the dispatcher and has to dispatch the call and answer responding units while still answering the phones (admin and 9-1-1). Bring your concerns to your city or county managers and let them know this in unacceptable but DONT point blame at the dispatch center. If you take the time to visit a center you'd have a better understanding of how much we do- and with less staff of most public safety agencies. ***To the New Hanover dispatchers- we got your back!

the media is also to blame

Did I forget to mention when the 9-1-1 centers are inundated with emergency calls that the media is also bombarding them with calls so they have something to report? Shame on WWAY3 for not helping to educate the public on this topic!


e-mer-gen-cy –noun 1. a sudden, urgent, usually unexpected occurrence or occasion requiring immediate action. 2. a state, esp. of need for help or relief, created by some unexpected event: a weather emergency; a financial emergency. This does not apply to a snotty nose, a barking dog, a parking lot wreck, trash pick up, or any of the other hundreds of NON-Emergency reasons people living in this nanny state call 911 to have the government come over to resolve. "Trash" calls like this tie up phone lines and prevent true emergency calls, such as a house fire, from being answered. Additionally, anyone who calls 911 more than 10 times should get to spend some quality time in front of a judge to explain why they think they have so many "emergencies" in their life. Not that I expect you to fight a house fire on your own, but while you were all dialing and hanging up did ANYONE pick up a garden hose and start putting wet stuff on the red stuff? Did anyone get an address and drive to the Fire Department to report it? To those who called alternate numbers for help, GOOD THINKING! You're the guys I want to have as neighbors.

Kudos Myrtle Grove Fire Department

I should also mention that once our call was received, Myrtle Grove Fire Department arrived in under 2 minutes. They had the area secured and the fire under control within minutes. The fire victim told me that the firemen did an amazing job throughout the ordeal.

Always focused on the negative!

How come the news is always focused on the negative of emergency response personnel (ie: (911, law enforcement, fire & ems)? You rarely hear about the good these agencies do every day, but you will always hear about the isolated incidents that unfortunately take a turn for the worse. People that are on here commenting really have no idea about what goes on at a 911 center. Most people just think that it only involves answering emergency calls. This is an extremely stressful job that involves multi-tasking. To list a few, this involves dispatching, answering emergency calls, checking law enforcement sensitive information for officers and providing emergency first aid procedures. The knowledge and proficiency that is required of them is within strict state standards. So I say shame to those people and the news who only have bad stuff to say about these highly dedicated personnel that are extremely low paid for the stresses that they deal with every day at work. It is unfortunate that this house burned down. Bad things sometimes happen and we learn from those mistakes. However, the negatives in emergency response personell (911) should never out weigh the positives! Thanks for your service 911!!!

WWAY - This is for you...

WWAY, Don't you think you could have just waited for Emergency Services to respond to your questions and concerns before reporting it to the public? You know better than anyone that there is always two sides to every story! Why didn't you take the time this time to get all the facts? I think you owe a super huge apology to all the folks at the 911 Center. I can absolutely gaurantee you that it is a matter of circumstance and not any person's fault! I'm so disappointed in WWAY now. I work in law enforcement and I am dispatched to calls every day by the wonderful, compassionate, and smart folks working in our 911 center. And to the folks bashing the 911 Center - is the company you work for perfect? Does everything run smoothly and efficiently 100 percent of the time? If so, please send me an application! Sincerely, POATWWAY

How 911 Works

So here’s how 911 works, since apparently the citizens of New Hanover County are not aware: -You dial 911 and hear 3 rings BEFORE it ever rings into the 911 center. -On the 4th ring, the line beings ringing in the center. -An operator tries to pick up the line as soon as possible, within two rings if call volume will allow. -If you hang up, AT ANY POINT, that particular line will keep ringing until answered. -When that “abandoned” line is answered, the operator is required to call it back to confirm if the call is a true emergency, or just an accident. -If the line is an “open line” (no direct voice contact with the caller, but some type of background noise) the 911 operator is to listen to the call and try to distinguish if there is an emergency and attempt to make contact with the caller; if this is unsuccessful, the operator is to hang up and call the number back immediately. Now when this entire neighborhood decided to call from their cell phones and their land lines, just imagine happened to our 911 center. Lets say five people called from two phones each and they called three times within a matter of minutes … that’s 30 calls for the same incident within a terribly small time frame for a center that is not staffed to answer that many calls at once. Also, I find this worth mentioning … so many “great” citizens called to report the fire, but do you know how many actually gave the correct address? None; that’s right, none. There were reports that the fire was at 5107 Everett and 5105 Everett, but none of our concerned neighbors were concerned enough to give the right addresses, thus providing the possibility that there was more than one fire. You guys do know that happens, right? Personally I'm glad the 911 center doesn't assume every incident that occurs close to another incident is related, can you imagine what a mess that would be? …And to the gentleman who thought it was such an awesome idea to call the Sheriff’s Department, are you high? Do you even know how that works? THEY TRANSFER YOU TO THE 911 CENTER...where you still have to wait for someone to pick up! I’m flabbergasted that the citizens of New Hanover County would be so ignorant to the fact that our local 911 center does an amazing job at what they do. If you think you could do a better job, maybe you should apply on the county website under the “Telecommunicator” opening which has been listed as available for over 2 years. 911 is a very difficult and stressful job that not many people can handle; it would be nice if the citizens of this county were supportive of the few good 911 dispatchers we do have and not throw them under the bus the first time a negative incident is reported through the “reliable” main stream media.

911 unanswered

I called 911 Sunday afternoon when a pittbull jumped my 6 foot privacy fence and attacked my dog and husband.I called 3 times and never got an answer.My husband called from his cell phone and a few minutes later they called back. I'm glad we didnt have a fire or a heart attack victim!

Dont hang up next time stay

Dont hang up next time stay on the phone you will be answered as soon as possible.

Unfortunately this article

Unfortunately this article is all one sided. Way to go news media in getting both sides of the story and investigating before you run with it. Maybe the next article should be one on educating the public on what actually happens when you call 911. It's not like what you see on TV. When you call 911 and you hear those first three rings in your ear, the 911 centers haven't even heard the first ring yet. 911 doesn't get your call until that 4th ring that you hear. Frustrating? Yes, but that's why it's important to STAY ON THE LINE. Once that line is picked up, it's the responsibility of that dispatcher to stay on the line until the call is completed. It's not like most jobs where you can just say "Hold Please" and go to the next phone call and come back to the other one later. Also, this article states that the homeowner was calling with 2 lines. All that manages to do is flood the center with calls and tie up 2 lines instead of one and this isn't including the other neighbors that were calling and hanging up and calling again. Each hang-up call that is received in a center is supposed to be called back. So now the dispatchers are having to call the hang-up calls before they can go on to the next line ringing to make everything is ok with that first call. Not only is this going on, but you have to take in account that all but maybe one or two people that are answering the phones in the 911 center are also responsible for a radio. This means that the ones answer the calls are most likely the same person that is sending the fire department out, or sending ems or sending the officer out during the emergency situation. Also, this fire probably wasn't the only emergency going on in all of New Hanover County at this time, the 911 center is also responsible for answering those calls. The news media should also educate people as to when you call 911 versus the non emergency number. Being locked out of your car, needing a phone number, needing a taxi, having a dead battery, reporting a break in to your car that occurred two days ago, these are calls that the 911 center answers daily on the EMERGENCY 911 lines. If the public was better educated on 911, maybe this problem wouldn't happen again. And I'm not saying that this was all the cause of why the lines didn't get answered but it all could be a contributing factor in it. This story should have been investigated before it was ever printed. Instead it was printed all for the sensationalism and ratings.

Keep your options open.

Praises should go to the individual(s) that were smart enough to think of calling someone else. I know we have all been programmed to call 911 during an emergency, but if everyone is calling 911 and no one is answering, stop and go to Plan B. Program the phone numbers of your local police, fire, and emergency medical services in your cell phone and call these numbers if ever 911 is not operational. Please, take the responsibility and initiative as a citizen to protect yourself. I think the lesson of this story is that society, government and technology in general are imperfect and flawed. First, we as a society know that as humans, we make mistakes. We are imperfect. Second, because government is operated by the members of our imperfect society, it too is imperfect and mistakes will be made. Finally, the great technology that we as a society have invented and operate to make life better, easier, safer, is flawed and not fool proof. In no way am I excusing any wrong doing that may have been committed by the 911 Center, if someone dropped the ball he/she needs to be held accountable, but I am saying that to sit back, point the finger, and think that you are no part of the problem is naïve and foolish. NHC Fire: 910-798-7420 NHC Sheriff: 910-798-4200 Wilm. Police: 910-343-3600

These calls are forwarded to

These calls are forwarded to the 911 center. In this county the 911 center is the dispatch center for all emergency services. By calling one of these non emergency numbers all you are doing is adding additional time to you response. For example if you call the non emergency number for the NHS, the desk deputy will either give you the business (non emergency) phone number to the 911 center or just transfer you to it.


its not the dispatchers fault that everyone at the scene calling and hanging up. take some time before you cry and make the situation even worse like making it a worse scenario. stick with what happened. the whole neighborhood and their cat had two phones up to their head, calling and hanging up.... its the dispatchers job to take the call, yes, but when you call a 3-5 person center... yeah no ISH the lines will be busy, and when you hang up when you dont get an answer in ten seconds, the dispatchers must call that number back. its proceedure. 911 is not a hotline you can just call and hang up. stop whining and crying. you people made this situation from a small porch fire...into a whole media blow up. next time, call and stay on the line until you reach somone OBVIOUSLY somone had made contact with a dispatcher because the fire dept doesnt just drive around neighborhood to neighborhood looking for fires. and they made it there in a reasonably quick manner. maybe if it would have been 20 minutes or so... yeah then you could blow this whole issue up... but come on people. think.

Check your facts first!

Guesty2 you need to check your facts before you speak on something that you obviously have NO knowledge about! In the 911 center there is supposed to be 10 dispatchers for the various consoles dispatch EMS, Fire, and Law Enforcement agencies. That does not include the UNCW dispatcher or the supervisor that is on duty. Ideally the center also likes to have a call taker that helps answer calls and gives breaks for those that are needed. So your comment about having 3-5 dispatchers in the center is incorrect. You need to know your facts before commenting on things!

You are the one lacking

You are the one lacking facts. Supposed to be? Ideally? Really? Ideally I will win the lottery so I won't have to work anymore. Realistically some 90 year old will win it. Take off your rose colored glasses and step into the real world. How often is the 911 center at full staff? Even if they are at full staff they can't answer every call if you have multiple people calling in on two phones at the same time.

I have my facts straight!

I am not the one lacking facts when I use to be a employee there. Was one for almost several years actually so I know the happenings of what goes on there. If you go back and read my post you will see I said, "Ideally the center also likes to have a call taker that helps answer calls and gives breaks for those that are needed. So your comment about having 3-5 dispatchers in the center is incorrect." Notice the first word IDEALLY so get some education on how many people work there! Granted they are short staffed and have been for some time so there is a shortage of personnel but to run the shift there is a EMT dispatcher, County/City fire dispatcher, a Carolina Beach/Kure Beach dispatcher, 5 between Sheriffs department and WPD, a Wrightsville Beach dispatcher, a UNCW dispatcher (who is not a county employee but is in the 911 center) and a you do the math genius!

Math is done

Guess you couldn't hack the job and I would bet you were fired. That would explain your anger to the 911 center. You even admit they are short on help. My math comes up that when many people are calling in with two phones it doesn't matter how many people are in the center. Seek help.


I am not angry and I really dont think my posts indicated such. I left for another job in Emergency Services since you must know!

NHC 911 whats the location of your emergency

It is so sad the public is not more aware of how much their calls are at the highest priority when they call NHC911, no matter what the situation is. How sad the media did not comment on when you call 911 the call center doesn't receive their 1st ring until the public has heard "their" phone ring 3 times!!! It breaks my heart that people can be so cruel without knowing what really goes on behind the scenes. So let me take a moment to tell YOU. First, the people that work at the center are the most caring and MULTI TASKED people you could ask for. When they take your call, no matter if you are the 1st caller or the 25th caller for the same call, they are getting as much information as you are willing to give them to get help to you as fast as they can, they are looking at 4 computer screens, 2 keyboards and 1 phone system that allows them to take "1" call at a time! If you hang up on them they have to make a decision to either call you back immediately or to answer 911 and then call you back... of course they will keep answering 911 1st because if someone felt the need to hang up it must not be quite as urgent as that person calling 911, but per protocol as soon as they can they will be calling back that 911 Hang up call and more than 50% of the time they are told how inefficient they are for not answering the 1st time before they can even TRY to assist you with your need. Please keep in mind, there are no "call taker's"... everyone in the center is a call taker/dispatcher...they are taking your call and if setting at that console or position that requires your assistance as in Fire, Ems or Law... they are listening to you in one ear and the radio in the other ear and dispatching that help to at the same time...all while the phone's are still ringing. You can multi task but you still only have one phone line at a time you can talk on and it extremely fustrating for them to hear the phone ring and know that they can not answer it because they are already on the phone helping someone else. Some of you have called 911 and have had an operator ask you to hold on the line for a moment please while they dispatch, you are the few that have heard them keep you on the phone, give you whatever type of instructions you may need.. ie.. CPR, leave a burning house, go behind a locked door for safety...etc...while they were dispatching units to you. I'm so happy you were able to hear this because you are the few that were able to experience a part of the big picture... too bad you couldn't hear what is being said in that dispatcher's other ear from the agencies on the radio that are also talking at the same time. These dispatcher's know their job, they do there jobs very well. They are trained with very high standards and work well as a team. It has always been so easy to put blame on the 911 center because something didn't go right or fast enough, but before you put blame on these people that care deeply about their community and helping every phone call to the highest level available...stop and think for just a second you may not be the only one calling, don't be so quick to judge. Hears food for thought, did you know that the 11 yrs that I was a NHC911 dispatcher, I didn't watch or read the news, my choice... because the news only tells you what you want to hear, how many times has the news told you the "BAD" stuff to get you all upset and worried, but they don't do a follow up on the actual out come of the original issue and the happy ending? I'm sure there are a few stories that have had a follow up, and I sure hope this one has one too. You see the Firemen, the Paramedic's the officers and deputies, but you don't see the team that gets them to you as fast as they can. They don't ask to be seen or heard, they do their job with all their heart and then go home after a 12 hr shift that does not include a lunch (yes, they have to eat at their consoles and have some to cover their phone and radio's while they have to use the restroom) and hope that they did the best they could do for that shift and try not to worry about the what if's... Not everyone is able to do their job, if you think you can and do it better... New Hanover Co always has the opportunity to apply for that position. I've seen many come in and walk out. IT takes a special amazing person to do an almost impossible job. Next time you call, please don't hang up and please don't cuss them out because that could have been your son or daughter you were calling about, they have son's and daughter's too and they are a son and a daughter also to someone just like you! Thank you to my fellow former co-workers for the great job they do everyday even when the community puts them down but yet they still show up for work!!! PKS

The lady who owns the house

The lady who owns the house said that she lost everything including her animals in the fire. Why wasn't that mentioned in the press? Maybe if the call center had responded in a more timely manner that could have been prevented.

Before you judge

Before you JUDGE the Center all records are PUBLIC get the facts find out how many calls they took for that fire; find out how long it took from the first call to the time of dispatch; find out how long it took from the time of dispatch to the first unit marking en-route; find out how long it took from them marking en-route to on scene. DONT ALWAY BLAME THE DISPATCHERS; now if you get the facts and it points that way let the blame go where it is fitting; I am sure they are sick that she lost everything we dont sit at work hoping for that to happen to anyone; we are there to try to do our best to get help out as quickly as possibly; so I say go to the center or who ever you have to and get copies of everything; there reports there tapes ect.... find out how hard they were working; find out how quick they got the call out I think you will be amazed

Get Real People

WHERE IS 911s SIDE OF THE STORY? WHY DID THE NEWS NOT SPEAK TO THEM BEFORE BASHING 911? Come on now people. You know good and well some of you are not seeing 2 sides to the issue. From experience working in a 911 center it only takes one call to make a normal day into chaos. Every single person nowadays has a cell phone. Most of your children have them too. So whereas 15 years you only got one or two calls concerning an event now you get sooooo many more. (I.E. a wreck at college and oleander, think about the traffic going thru that intersection at a non peak time. Now think about if 50% of those people call 911.) That is a huge number of calls coming in. Plus the other calls coming in from around the county including 911 calls, non emergency lines, calls from officers, and radios traffic. Now 911 has to confirm that this is indeed the same wreck and not another one that has occured. Also actions are taken to try to prep incoming rescue units on what to expect and to assest the situation to see if any witness can assist before rescue arrives. If your child is not breathing and you call 911 would you rather they walk you thru CPR or hang up because they have other calls coming in? Im not saying 911 is scott free in the situation but their side of the story should have been looked at! Funny how everyone complains about tax increases, which fund 911, but then when 911 is understaffed they wanna complain as well. If your not happy with the way the state and local government is run do something about it people.

Like You All Said...

Like you said... 3-5 operators for 192,500 people... Or at the maximum when fully staffed..... ONE OPERATOR FOR 38,500 people... ENOUGH SAID! Under staffed and Undermanaged!