Columbia firefighters responded to a fire on Quail Drive in north Columbia Wednesday night.
Neighbors told ABC 17 News they tried calling 9-1-1 multiple times, but some said they couldn’t get through to a dispatcher.
Call logs show only a couple of people hung up while trying to reach a dispatcher.
Records at Boone County Joint Communications show the first call for the fire came in at 8:34 p.m.
That person waited 14 seconds before a dispatcher answered the call.
It took firefighters a little less than 4 minutes to battle the blaze on Quail Drive, but residents nearby said it took them longer to reach someone to dispatch the fire department.
“I guess the neighbor woman come up and ask if anyone could dial 9-1-1, because she said no one could get through.”
Neighbors told ABC 17 News they tried 3 or 4 times to reach Joint Communications, but no one answered.
Two other calls came in within the same minute of the 8:34 call for the fire on Quail.
Operators said the callers hung up by the time they were free.
When 9-1-1 called back, one person answered and reported the fire.
Despite the excitement, Operations Manager Brian Maydwell said people should only call once.
“The reason we want you to stay on the line, it’s very important, is that if you stay on the line, it’s one call that starts ringing. If you hang up, that call continues to ring at Joint Communications. You’ve just created another call that someone has to go through and do,” said Maydwell.
So to stop people from dialing in and hanging up, Joint Communications put on this message.
“You have reached 9-1-1. Do not hang up, as that may delay response. The next available dispatcher will assist you. Please stay on the line.”
“I believe about a year and a half ago, we just had a ring. It was just ringing. When people hear ringing, they like to hang up, but we’re hoping that the message would stop a lot of hang-ups and calls,” said Maydwell.
Maydwell said there were 4 people on duty Wednesday night when the fire calls came in.
He said more call-takers are on the way, as the office is in the process of interviewing candidates to hire 5 new employees.
Boone County is in charge of making those hires. The new building will be located near the Sheriff’s Office set to open in 2016.