Metro 911 dispatchers push technology and patience to combat overloading

News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The sound of gunfire outside of Bar Louie in the Gulch sent customers running and desperately calling for help. However, witnesses tell News 2 they had trouble getting connected to 911 dispatchers.

“It wouldn’t go through,” said Tim Davis, who was at the restaurant when the shooting occurred. “We had bars. We had Wi-Fi. All of that.”

News 2 inquired and found out a surge in 911 calls forced dispatch phone lines to back up.

“This is a common occurrence for us,” said Stephen Martini, director of the Metro Emergency Communications Center. “This probably happens multiple times — three, four, five times a week in Metro Nashville.”

Martini says the call volume into 911 after the Bar Louie shooting multiplied four times the average. Almost 50 calls were made in a matter of three and a half minutes.

“Some of the folks who called had information about the patient and suspects involved,” Martini said. “Some people were in the area and just heard the gunshots and they called. And others called, it rang a few times and they disconnected, and we had to call those folks back.”

Per ECC policy, dispatchers must return disconnected calls or callers who hang up. Martini says at least five to six minutes were spent calling people back Friday night.

“If somebody calls and it rings five or ten times and disconnects before talking to somebody, all our call takers are alerted that the call occurred,” said Martini.

Thankfully, the overload in phone calls didn’t delay the emergency response time. Martini says emergency responders were dispatched with 53 seconds of the call.

Martini advises callers to stay on the line when trying to reach 911, even if it takes some time to get an answer.

“Let that phone ring, because you will get answered,” Martini said.

The department is now looking into technology like geofencing which will filter out calls from the same location, and therefore prevent delays for other callers in need of help.

“If there’s another call ten miles away, the system says this call probably isn’t associated with these others. It prioritizes that call higher in the queue,” said Martini.

The department also offers the hubNashville app, which allows people to report non-emergent crimes, take pictures and submit. Those reports go directly to dispatchers and are monitored 24/7. You can download the app through the app store on your smart phone.

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