Durham firefighter uses radio to call in emergency after neighbor can’t reach 911

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — A man was suffering an allergic reaction when his wife called 911, except no one answered.

CBS 17 has been reporting on problems at Durham’s 911 center since December.

“The hornets were inside the brush pile,” Robert Beckmann said.

Beckmann showed CBS 17 where he was on his field when he was stung twice — on a finger and toe.

“This doesn’t feel right, I started getting all itchy, red hands, and I’m like ‘OK, I’m having another allergic reaction’,” he explained.

At the time Beckmann and his wife, Donna, were more concerned about leaving the brush pile than getting help for the wasp bites. They called a neighbor, a Durham firefighter, then 911.

“It rang for quite a while and there was no answer,” Donna Beckmann said.

Their neighbor called back and told the couple he radioed the emergency in for them.

They realize they were lucky this time. The Redwood Volunteer Fire Department is about a mile from their home so help is close.

But they need 911 to get the information to first responders.

“If he should have another allergic reaction and I call 911 and they don’t answer, it’s not a fire in my field, it’s my husband’s life,” Donna said.

The allergic reaction emergency happened back in July. CBS 17 has learned that people continue to stop by fire stations when they call 911 and aren’t able to get reach anyone.

The Beckmann’s neighbor, the Durham firefighter, notified the city. It was one of 55 complaints the city received from its first responders about the center from December to May.

Staffing still remains an issue.

Employees said firefighters are still working at the center, dispatching fire calls.

In an email, the city admits the center “is not where it needs to be” and is on a “path to improvement.”

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