‘Can you get through to 911 in Durham when you need them?:’ Man calls 911 3 times and says he couldn’t get through

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — The city of Durham is investigating after another report of someone not being able to get through to 911 after they said they called three times and no one answered.

Josh Privette of Raleigh was driving on Highway 70 in Durham near S Miami Boulevard on Wednesday night around 6:20 pm when he saw a wreck had occurred.

He said no first responders were on the scene yet so stopped to see if he could help.

“The airbags had deployed, I pulled over to make sure everybody was OK and started dialing 911,” Privette said.

Privette said it rang for about a minute and no one picked up.

“I thought something went wrong with my phone and I hung up the phone and started dialing again,” Privette said.

He said he called a second time, and then a third time, and still there was no answer.

Josh Privette (CBS 17 photo)

Privette said a passenger in his car also tried calling 911 and let it ring for about 60 seconds, but he said she had no luck either.

Turns out someone else at the scene had already called 911 and was able to get through.

Thankfully no one was seriously injured in this wreck and first responders were dispatched to the scene.

But Privette said this is still concerning.

“To call three times and not be able to get up with anybody was disturbing,” Privette said.

Privette reported this to the city and Durham city leaders said they are investigating his calls and his passengers’ call to 911.

City officials said they received multiple 911 calls about this accident, but they said they were fully staffed with eight people working in the call center at the time of the crash.

CBS 17 asked how many of those 8 individuals were taking calls on Wednesday night, but we have not heard back from them.

This is the second time CBS 17 has interviewed someone who said their 911 call went unanswered after it rang for about a minute.

Charlitta Burruss said she called 911 to report a shooting incident at Edgemont Elms, but she said no one answered.

Durham city officials tracked Burruss’ call and found that she had called during a high call volume time, and that she hung up after 67 seconds.

City officials said her call would have been answered eventually if she had stayed on the line.

This comes as 40 percent of the Durham Emergency Communications Center (DECC) positions are vacant.

Since December, Durham had been forwarding an average of 1,900 calls to Raleigh Wake 911 a month because they didn’t have enough call takers to handle the calls. Durham quit forwarding calls to Raleigh on June 1, because they said they had enough 911 operators to handle the call volume.

On Thursday, Durham Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson said in an email that two new call-takers had been added last week. Three other call takers were added on June 1st to help answer calls.

The latest data from the city shows that Durham 911 answers 88 percent of 911 calls in 20 seconds, but 3 percent of calls are not getting answered in 60 seconds.

While that may not sound like a lot, if Durham receives 800 to 1,000 calls a day, that’s 24-30 calls that are not getting answered within a minute per day.

“It seems like forever when you’re calling 911,” Privette said. “It makes you wonder, ‘can you get through to 911 when you truly need them in Durham?”

While they have 25 vacant positions, they have only four positions posted currently because they only have the capacity to hire and train four people at a time.

City officials said Thursday they are working to fill 911 operator positions as quickly as possible, and they have several applicants in the screening process.

If you would like to apply for a 911 operator position at the City of Durham, click here.

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