Storms Spike 911 Call Volume

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CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — Wednesday’s storms increased the amount of calls made to 911’s Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon by 48% compared to Tuesday. Dispatchers expect another spike in calls Thursday afternoon since more storms are in the forecast.

The first thing a 911 dispatcher asks when answer a call is, “What’s the address of your emergency?”

But all too often, it’s a question they say the caller cannot answer.

This was the case for dozens of calls to the Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon (ECSO) Center on Wednesday. The storms meant dispatchers answered 756 calls compared to 363 on Tuesday.

“It was extremely busy we took about 48 percent more 911 calls,” said Operations Manager Kevin Harris.

When an emergency unfolds, time is critical. But dispatchers can only answer the phones one call at a time. “They have to multitask and very quickly get on and off the lines,” said Harris.

So if you dial 911, make your call count. “We’re going to want the caller that has very specific information on … I know exactly where it is or I can tell you what road you need to go down to access the fire.”

If you just see a cloud of smoke in the skies, you wouldn’t necessarily need to call 911. If you see lightning, you wouldn’t need to call then either.

“If that lightning strike creates a fire, you know, that you need to report then that’s definitely a reason to call 911,” said Harris.

Dispatchers expect another busy evening Thursday since more storms are in the forecast. So if you see smoke, help dispatchers help fire crews, by making sure you can answer the location question before calling 911.