TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Monsoon means more calls to 911, but not always more people waiting to answer on the other end.
When the storms hit, they create a controlled chaos for dispatchers, according to Deputy Chief Sharon McDonough of Tucson Fire Department.
“It gets crazy in here,” she said.
There is no typical day for 911 center staff, but McDonough said this time of year makes for sudden surges in call volume. Sunday’s call records show that operators handled close to 100 calls per hour on average, and that number shot up to almost 400 as soon as it started storming.
Monsoon is the only time when call takers have to put someone on hold, according to McDonough. While staff is busy prioritizing emergencies and dispatching first responders, the wait for some callers could last up to ten minutes.
“If you’re the one making the call for a true emergency, that ten minutes must just feel like an eternity,” said McDonough.
Many of the calls during storms are about downed trees or power lines, but McDonough said she does not discourage anyone from dialing 911, even if emergency crews have already been notified.
“We’d rather someone call and report an incident, then to not report it at all,” she said. “We do ask, and would love, that people really consider ‘is this an emergency situation or not?’.”
Just make sure you’re able to provide details about the situation. McDonough said calling 911 while you drive past an emergency can make it tough to provide the necessary details to help first responders.
When the storms pick up, a battalion chief from TFD is relocated to the call center to help with prioritizing and logistics, according to McDonough.