Durham radio traffic reveals confusion, lack of information from 911 call center amid staffing shortage

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — We’re getting a better understanding of the concern some first responders in Durham have.

As CBS 17 reported, Durham’s 911 call center has a staffing shortage due to COVID-19. Raleigh’s center is taking some of their calls. CBS 17 continues to investigate, obtaining radio traffic from two 911 calls that were answered by Raleigh.

“You get an apartment number yet? I’m working on it. It came from Raleigh,” that’s the exchange among first responders heard in radio traffic.

The call came in the day after Christmas. Durham first responders dispatched to a person asking for medical help.

“We’ll circle the complex again. Wait until we can hear back,” said one first responder.

They’re left hoping someone might come out and flag them down.

“Tried that caller multiple times and it rings and goes to voicemail,” the traffic continues.

Then there’s the call that came in Dec. 11.

“Do you have a better location for the patient? The call came from Raleigh and they gave us the address,” is the exchange heard in radio traffic.

Shortly after Durham’s 911 call center confirms it experienced a COVID-19 outbreak. Raleigh’s center started answering some of their calls.

“We’re walking around the building to see if we see anything,” the traffic continues.

The Durham Firefighters Association and its police association said it’s a problem, that they’ve received wrong addresses or incomplete information. They said it’s leading to delays in their response times.

CBS 17 took those concerns to the mayor.

“Only a small percentage of our calls are going to the Wake County… because of our COVID situation we are down a few people,” Mayor Steve Schewel said.

The city said only 11 percent of all calls coming into Durham are answered in Raleigh and said it hasn’t impacted response times.

“Our 911 service is done very well,” Schewel said.

CBS 17 played one of the calls for City Councilman Mark-Anthony Middleton.

“It’s incredibly impressive to hear professionals so committed to saving lives that even with spotty information they are banging their heads against the wall figuratively to find out if anyone needs help,” Middleton said.

CBS 17 has requested response times from the city and county, hoping to verify what the city said. We have not heard back.

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