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Sedgwick County: 911 callers heard no busy signals over holiday weekend

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, July 7, 2014, at 6:07 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, July 8, 2014, at 9:38 a.m.

There were no reports of Wichitans receiving a busy signal when calling 911, according to Sedgwick County Emergency Communications officials.

Officials activated a special non-emergency phone line to keep 911 call takers free to respond to emergencies over the holiday weekend. The non-emergency line received calls dealing with firework complaints to make sure emergency calls were not blocked.

Director Kim Pennington said the non-emergency system, activated in 2012 after witnesses calling in a motorcycle fatality received busy signals because of other calls dealing with fireworks complaints, was a success.

“We had no complaints that the 911 line was receiving a busy signal,” she said. “I’d call that a success.”

Over the weekend the non-emergency system received more than 700 calls, and the emergency system received more than 8,600 calls. Extra call takers were on hand for both phone lines, especially during evenings and nights. Both systems received the highest number of calls for the weekend on July 4, with 359 non-emergency and 3,053 emergency calls processed.

Emergency communications normally receives 1,400 calls a day, an average of 4,200 for three days. The number of emergency calls received this year is more than double that amount, and slightly higher than the total received over the same weekend last year.

Pennington said she attributes the slight increase to a combination of factors.

“It was a combination of more people being aware of the non-emergency line, the holiday falling on a Friday, and people having more than a week to shoot fireworks off since they went on sale. People were also able to stay up late Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday night doing so.

“I know my porch rumbled well past two o’clock in the morning.”

Pennington said Communications has yet to decide whether or not to activate the non-emergency line for New Year's Eve, another busy time for the office. If temperatures are very low or there is a lot of rainfall, there won’t be need for a non-emergency line as people will be making emergency calls, she said.

Reach Nassim Benchaabane at 316-268-6514 or nbenchaabane@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter at @NassimBnchabane.

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