Durham woman’s 911 call goes unanswered after 60 seconds as operator shortage continues

North Carolina

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Charlitta Burruss called 911 on Saturday to report a shooting incident at Edgemont Elms in east Durham. She said she woke up to gunfire outside her home on South Elm Street.

“I heard a ‘rapid fire’ of gunshots,” Burruss said. “It was so bad I thought the shots were coming through my side door or my front door.”

Later that day, she saw shell casings outside her home. That’s when she dialed 911.

“I tried to dial 911 and nobody answered,” Burruss said.

Her call to 911 rang for over a minute. She said she hung up and called the non-emergency line. She said she couldn’t get anyone there, either.

Burruss said she was finally able to get an officer when she saw a police car go past her apartment complex.

“I was in my vehicle, I blew my horn, chased him down, and got him to come back,” Burruss said. “It shouldn’t be this way. We should be able to have our hands on a police officer as much as possible.”

CBS 17 reached out to the city to find out why no one answered her call. In an email, city officials said the 911 center was staffed and Burruss happened to call during a time where there was a surge in calls and that she hung up after 67 seconds.

Officials said if she had stayed on the line, someone would have answered the call.

On Saturday, the city said 97 percent of calls that came in the Durham 911 call center were answered within 60 seconds or less.

According to North Carolina Administrative Code 6C.0209, 90 percent of calls should be answered within 10 seconds or less and 95 percent of calls should be answered in 20 seconds.

CBS 17 brought this state code up to Durham Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson and asked if allowing calls to go unanswered for 60 seconds is acceptable.

“Those are targets that all 911 call takers strive for, ” Ferguson said “Those are the targets we absolutely strive for that have been set by the state. That’s an average over time, so some calls are going to take longer than that.”

Ferguson said there are still 26 vacant positions at the Durham 911 call center and the top priority is filling those positions.

“Obviously, every call-taker gives us more capacity and takes a little bit of burden off of folks on the floor,” Fergusons said. “So, we’re very committed to getting those positions filled.”

CBS 17 asked if they tried to call Burruss back, Ferguson said it’s not a requirement to call back a caller who abandoned a call.

The city has four 911 operator positions posted on it website.

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