Reserve Sedgwick County sheriff's deputies may staff a special fireworks complaint line next year to ensure that the county doesn't see a repeat situation that occurred this year when two 911 callers received busy signals.
Emergency Communications officials said those 911 busy signals were received at 9:43 p.m. on July 4 when all 20 emergency phone lines were tied up, primarily by callers making fireworks complaints.
Randy Bargdill, director of emergency communications, said Friday that it was the first time anyone could remember that someone received a busy signal after calling 911 in Sedgwick County.
For that reason, Bargdill said, it probably doesn't make sense to increase the number of available phone lines.
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At any given time, Bargdill said, there are nine to 15 dispatchers on duty. When all dispatchers are tied up, he said, callers normally are transferred to a recording that asks them to hold on the line for the next available dispatcher.
He said the department normally has 15 dispatchers on duty July 4 and New Year's Eve, the two busiest days of the year. The department also is fully staffed on River Festival weekends, another busy time for dispatchers.
If the plan is approved by Sedgwick County commissioners, Bargdill said, it's likely that fireworks complaints next year will be directed to a special fireworks hotline. In the days before the holiday, he said, the number will be publicized and people will be told how to use it.
He said the hotline would require the installation of a new system that would separate those holding to make fireworks complaints from those holding to report other emergencies. The system will probably cost about $1,000, Bargdill said.
While looking into the situation, Bargdill said he also learned that mobile telephone carriers have limits on the number of 911 calls their systems can handle. He said it's possible that the busy signals July 4 were caused by overloaded carriers and not overloaded 911 lines.
"The bottom line is these citizens called 911 and weren't able to get through," he said.
Both 911 busy signals were received by people trying to report a serious motorcycle accident near 37th Street North and Ridge Road. The motorcyclist, Adan Lopez, 26, died Wednesday at Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis.
One witness, after several failed attempts to contact 911, called his father, an off-duty police officer, who used his police radio to contact dispatchers.
Another witness, who was driving to an EMS station on Maize Road to report the accident, flagged down a Maize police officer who used his radio to contact 911.