DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – As more than 40 percent of the 911 operator positions at the Durham Emergency Communications Center are vacant, the 911 call pick-up times at the center have gotten longer in recent months.
One Durham mom, who does not want to reveal her name, said she tried to call 911 around 5:45 p.m. on Saturday because her daughter was running a fever of 105.3.
But she said no one ever picked up.
“It was harrowing,” she said. “I let it ring for a good amount of time because I thought surely someone was going to pick up.”
She said she tried calling multiple times.
“I called again, no answer a second time. I ended up calling four times, and of those four times, nobody answered,” she said.
Desperate for help, she called her friend, who is a police officer, on his cell phone to see if he could help get an ambulance to her house.
“I was in tears, not quite hysterical, but very upset,” she said. “I didn’t want to wait too long because I was afraid for her safety.”
She said her friend was able to radio an ambulance to pick up her daughter and take her to the hospital.
While her daughter was treated and is doing better, she said she still cannot believe no one picked up the phone.
“I couldn’t believe it, I mean I pay taxes, I expect the service to exist,” she said. “We live in a city that is plentiful with resources and I thought this was a service that was provided but not quite.”
This Durham mom isn’t alone.
CBS 17 has interviewed other people in the Durham community in recent months who have called 911 and had a hard time getting through.
According to data on the city of Durham’s website, about 10 percent of the 911 calls in Durham in July were not answered within 40 seconds or less.
Data also shows that the percentage of calls answered in 10 seconds or less went dropped from 84 percent in January down to 75 percent in July.
At the same time, the number of 911 calls in Durham rose 22 percent going from 21,116 calls in January to 27,913 calls in July.
But the number of vacant 911 operator positions has remained between 25 – 26 vacancies since late May.
Officials with the city of Durham say they are actively working to fill these vacancies.
In an email on Wednesday, city officials said that they currently have four trainees who are in the mentoring stage and they’re hopeful they will be released to full-time call taking in the coming weeks.
A job fair will be held on Sept. 16 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the NCWorks Career Center at 1105 S. Briggs where the city will be recruiting call takers, trainers, and dispatchers.
City officials said applicants can apply anytime on the city’s website by clicking here.
CBS 17 reached out to other 911 call centers in the Triangle and found that Wake (95 percent), Halifax (99 percent), Chatham (99 percent), and Cumberland (99 [percent) are all answering at least 95 percent of their calls in 15 seconds or less.
However, Durham is lagging by only answering 78 percent of their calls in 15 seconds or less.