DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Durham city leaders confirmed Sunday that for seven hours over the weekend the city had to route their emergency calls to the Raleigh-Wake Emergency Communications Center due to unplanned staff absences at the Durham Emergency Communications Center.
According to a statement, the city said the Durham 911 center used alternate call-routing between the hours of 8 p.m. Saturday to 3 a.m. Sunday because there were no call-takers there to answer the calls.
The news release said these call takers were either quarantined or sick.
City officials said in the release that there were dispatchers on duty dispatching calls, but not answering emergency calls.
Officials said that additional staff has been called in to cover the shifts and that new personnel will fill call-taker positions in a few weeks.
As CBS 17 has previously reported, the Durham Emergency Communications Center has been dealing with a shortage of staff since December and it is now common for some calls to be routed to Raleigh.
But to have all calls routed to Raleigh for several hours is concerning to community members.
“Unfortunately, it delays us in our response,” said Jimie Wright, president of Professional Firefighters of Durham.
Wright said when Raleigh call takers answer calls for Durham, they do not have access to the same information.
“They’re not able to verify the address,” Wright said. “So, we’ve on numerous occasions received incorrect addresses or missing information, and we’re not able to find a location in a timely manner and sometimes not at all.”
Wright also said sometimes the right number of resources is not sent for certain calls.
He also said often firefighters are having to help fill in as dispatchers.
“We’re paying our firefighters when they’re off duty, to go up there and actually dispatch the calls for us, just to ensure that we’ve got someone who is monitoring the radio at all times,” Wright said.
Officials with the city of Durham said in Sunday’s statement that they have been struggling to hire workers.
The latest data from the city shows that of the 64 operational positions, only 38 positions are filled and only 31 of those individuals are trained to answer calls.
City officials back in January said they were working to return their staffing levels back to normal soon, but several months later they are still short on staff.
“We were promised we were going to figure out what the problem was and try to improve it, and here we are basically six months later, and we still have the same issue,” Wright said. “We’re at that point where someone needs to step up and fix this.”
City officials said as of April 30 only 9 percent of Durham’s 911 calls are being answered by the Raleigh-Wake Emergency Communications Center.