N.C. 911 center, plagued by staff shortages, deals with dispatch mix-ups

One resident told a local news station that an ambulance was sent to the wrong address and that a few weeks later, firefighters were sent to her home for a fire that didn’t exist


By Rachel Engel 

DURHAM, N.C. — Staffing shortages at the Durham 911 center have caused confusion in recent weeks, with resources being sent to the wrong addresses.  

The dispatch center has 25 vacancies, which encompasses more than 40% of the positions, WRAL reported.  

The dispatch center has 25 vacancies, which encompasses more than 40% of the positions, WRAL reported.
The dispatch center has 25 vacancies, which encompasses more than 40% of the positions, WRAL reported. (Photo/Getty Images)

In one recent instance, a resident called the Durham Fire Department directly after they were unable to get through to 911.  

“The resident just called and said they couldn’t get through to 911,” one firefighter told paramedics, WRAL reported. “Only thing we know is the patient has cancer and she’s been unresponsive for roughly 15 to 20 minutes.”  

In another instance, another resident said paramedics didn’t arrive for 30 minutes after calling 911, due to being sent to the wrong address across town.  

“Dispatch calls back and says, ‘Are the paramedics there yet?’ And I said, ‘No. I don’t even need them now,’” Claudette Glenn told WRAL, who said she had taken a nebulizer treatment while waiting for EMS.  

“A few minutes later, paramedics showed up,” Glenn said. “Come to find out they had been sent on the other side of Lawson Avenue [several blocks away].” 

A few weeks later, a city firefighter showed up at Glenn’s door, apparently responding to a fire.  

“He says, ‘Ma’am, do you have a fire in your apartment?’ I said, ‘No, sir, I don’t,’” she said. “Apparently dispatch had sent them, once again, to the wrong address.” 

According to city spokeswoman Amy Blalock, Glenn’s medical call necessitated an “address clarification,” causing a 10-minute delay, but said the fire dispatch was correct, based on the address given to 911.  

The Durham City Council will receive an update on the 911 staffing shortage at its next meeting.  

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