911 calls up 80 percent during Monday’s tornadoes

Published 1:18 pm Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chilton County’s 911 system saw an 80 percent increase in calls during Monday’s tornadoes.

911 fielded 370 calls from 5-10 a.m. Monday, Director Dan Wright said. During the same time period on an average day, about 74 calls would come into the office.

“To start with, it was a little hairy there because at that time of the morning, there’s only two dispatchers there, but another dispatcher took it upon herself to go on in,” Wright said. “We’ve got some dedicated employees. A couple more of them came in without even being called. We almost tripled our normal staffing.”

Of the calls Monday morning, 89 came in through the 911 lines, while 281 calls came in through 911’s administration lines.

The admin lines stay busy because other agencies—including the Chilton County Sheriff’s Department and all four local municipal police departments—have lines that connect to 911 during non-business hours.

“We don’t know what numbers these people are calling,” Wright said. “We have to treat it as a priority as well.”

Also, calls dialed in to 911 roll over to the admin lines if the 911 lines are busy.

Wright also used his position to reach residents through social media in the aftermath of the storms, encouraging people not to try to enter affected areas, so they wouldn’t hinder rescue personnel, and quelling rumors about fatalities and injuries.

Follow 911 on the organization’s Facebook page, “Chilton County E-9-1-1,” and on Twitter, “Chilton County 9-1-1.”

On the 911 webpage, chilton911.org, residents can find links to the NOAA Weather Radio site and other useful sites.

“Everybody needs to get a weather radio,” Wright said. “You just can’t depend on these sirens, especially not to wake you up in the middle of the night.”