Richmond residents say no one answers when they call 911: ‘I have never felt so unsafe in my life’

Richmond Department of Emergency Communications says its experiencing staffing shortages.
Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 5:51 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 7, 2023 at 10:55 AM EST

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - When you call 911 for an emergency, you expect another person to pick up on the other line, but instead, some Richmond residents say they’re being placed on hold or can’t get through at all.

Residents like Melissa Gropman are frustrated.

Gropman says she called the non-emergency hotline when she heard gunfire outside of her home, but after waiting several minutes and calling a few times, she just hung up.

“I’ve gotten no answer, like zero answer. No one’s answering, and there’s no voicemail,” Gropman said.

Gropman took her concerns to the Nextdoor Phone App, where she found she was not alone.

Dozens of others also voiced their frustrations, saying they have the same problem, even when dialing 911.

“Multiple neighbors of mine have had their, in their house shot out, I had a head-on collision occur in front of my house, which blew up both vehicles, and in the six months I’ve called 911 six times, and no one answers,” Church Hill resident Amanda Babbitt said. “I have never felt so unsafe in my life.”

Babbitt says the recorded message states there’s a high volume of calls, then proceeds to hang up.

Babbitt adds she’s reached out to the city council, who says they’re looking into it.

“I want to see someone answering 911 because what goes through my head is, what if it’s a heart attack, and they have three minutes to save that person’s life? They can’t just keep recalling; it’s not something silly,” Babbitt said.

“I’d like to see the city, RPD, our city council, address the issue, find out what’s at the bottom of it, and if it’s staffing if it’s funding. I think it’s probably several things at once,” Gropman said.

The Richmond Department of Emergency Communications Preparedness and Response Communications and Marketing Analyst Karen Gill says the department is unaware of any issues that would prevent calls from going through. Still, those who call 911 or the non-emergency hotline could wait longer than usual due to staffing shortages. She says people can file a complaint about the matter.

The department also released the following information regarding emergency calls:

  • For non-emergencies, please call the public safety non-emergency number, 804-646-5100.
  • Every call is answered in the order that it is received.
  • You might get a recording. If so, please stay on the line until your call is answered in the order it was received. Please do not hang up in an attempt to call back, which will only delay the response and add additional work for the call-takers.
  • As always, we encourage callers to contact us to file a complaint and provide us with more information so that we can more fully investigate. To file a complaint, please call 804-646-5911.
  • More information about filing complaints can be found here.
  • More details on dos and don’ts for calling and texting 911 can be found here.