BEAVERTON, Ore. —
An early Friday morning apartment fire in Beaverton led to a flood of 911 calls, and people impacted by the fire said they’re upset that so many people were on hold waiting to connect with dispatchers.
“The reason you call is because there’s an emergency, something serious is going on,” said Larry Burbidge, who lost two cars and had his apartment heavily damaged in the fire. “When it is an emergency and you get put on hold, in what universe does that make any sense?”
The Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency says its dispatchers properly handled the calls and that some callers being put on hold did not impact the way fire crews responded to the incident.
“They know they’re just waiting for someone to show up and it’s scary,” said Kelly Dutra, director of WCCCA. “Everyone calls in at once, and we have a finite number of lines that allow those lines to come in, and at a point they’ll get saturated.”
Dutra says they have 18 dispatchers working, with 10 of them designated to taking calls from cellphone users and the rest allocated for landline calls.
But the majority, approximately 80 percent, of the calls WCCCA handles come from cellphone users.
People, like Burbidge, asked KATU News to investigate why WCCCA doesn’t deploy more of its staff to handling the bulk of the calls it gets.
Dutra says it’s because they routinely get multiple calls on the same incident from cellphone users, and a disproportionate amount of the medical emergencies they are called to come from landlines.
She adds WCCCA has combed through the data from telephone providers to ensure its staff can properly handle calls for all types of emergencies.
“When there’s so much repetition that people who are experiencing a medical crisis or some other sort of need for assistance may not be able to get through,” Dutra said.