ON YOUR SIDE: Richmond 911 says communication is getting better

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Strong reaction to my 12 On Your Side report about the Richmond woman who called 911, got a recording, and says no one called her back. Viewers took to Facebook with comments. Some said they were emergency dispatchers, and until dispatch centers get additional staffing, expect the problem to rise.

I did even more digging, and a spokesman for Richmond 911 assures me the system is better now than it was a couple years ago.

If every call taker is busy, on the phone with a real emergency or not, the recorded message kicks in.

"You've reached the Richmond 911 Emergency Call Center. We are experiencing an unusually high volume of calls at this time."

In the past, the caller would just hear the phone ring and ring and ring. Communications officers say the ringing was disconcerting and a recording lets the caller know they got through.

"They have peak periods, and that's when the recording will be played," said Lt. Thomas Nolan with Richmond 911 Communications Center. "That citizen will be contacted back, if they do hang up - but we don't want them to hang up. We want them to stay on the line and wait for us and we will get there."

The caller who gets a recording goes to overflow. While the caller can't hear the ring, communications officers can.

"This ring is still ringing here," said Nolan. "We still hear the ring. We see it on our boards, our display boards. The supervisors are moving toward getting that call answered. We will get to that call."

They say it will happen from time to time, but operators are meeting industry standards.

"We're one of the largest police aps in the state," said Nolan. "We also have one of the highest call volumes. We answer calls 91 percent of the time in 10 seconds or less. We take a lot of pride in that."

Cold comfort for Dana Harris, who got a recording and says no one called her back when she called 911 to report a violent street fight.

"Oh, I would hate to think that they just don't care," said Harris. "I think it's budget cuts. I just praise God the boys ended up separating. One went down the street that way, one went that way. Thank you, Jesus."

Nolan says a call back was made and they're investigating why Harris didn't get it. Richmond's new phone system went into effect a couple years ago and is the same as Henrico's.

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