Durham no longer routing 911 calls to Raleigh as new operators start Tuesday

North Carolina

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – On Tuesday, Durham city officials said 911 calls would no longer be routed to Raleigh. They said they now have enough trained workers to answer all the calls that come into Durham’s call center.

CBS 17 broke the story in December that some of Durham’s 911 calls were being routed to Raleigh-Wake 911 due to a shortage of call takers.

For the last six months, 10 percent of Durham’s 911 calls were routed over to Raleigh, which is the equivalent of about 1,900 calls a month, according to Raleigh-Wake 911.

The Raleigh dispatchers would then have to relay information about these 911 calls to Durham’s first responders.

The Professional Fire Fighters of Durham Local 668 said firefighters would often run into problems where they would receive inaccurate addresses or wrong information from Raleigh dispatchers. In January, CBS 17 obtained radio traffic recordings of first responders getting lost when responding to calls and it would take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes for them to find the right location.

But on Tuesday, the city of Durham said three 911 operators who just finished training would start answering calls and that this would allow them to no longer require assistance from Raleigh-Wake 911.

While city officials said they still have 26 vacant positions, they said they now have enough employees to answer 100 percent of the 911 calls that come in the Durham Emergency Communications Center.

“Our staffing levels now are back to where they were in late summer of last year,” said Bo Ferguson, deputy city manager for Durham. “In those months we were very successful at handling all of Durham‘s call volume.”

CBS 17 asked how these three new operators would be able to take on the load of the nearly 2,000 calls that had been routed to Raleigh every month.

“The three new 911 operators, our part-time staff, and of course the efforts of our existing staff will be able to handle that call volume that was previously was going to Raleigh,” Ferguson said.

CBS 17 asked how many part-time employees had been added to help address this shortage, but Ferguson did not have those details available.

“I don’t have that specific number. I know, over the last few weeks, we’ve added but I don’t have that number in front of me,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said over the summer they will continue to add more call takers as a fourth new employee will begin taking calls in mid-June and three more new employees will start taking calls on July 16.

“Our efforts to bring additional staff on, as well as the continued efforts of current staff, give us confidence that we will be answering calls in a timely fashion here in the Durham call center,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said they also have four full-time 911 operator positions posted that will be closing this week. He said they hope to get those positions filled as quickly as possible.

In addition, the city of Durham will be adding a fifth academy for 911 operators later this year to help fill the 26 positions that are vacant.

CBS 17 reached out to the Professional Fire Fighters of Durham Local 668 to see if the union had a comment on the 911 calls no longer being routed to Raleigh, but it said it had no comment at the time.

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