SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — When the Blanco River turned into a wall of water on Memorial Day weekend, the phone lines at the Hays County 911 Dispatch Center lit up.
Erica Carpenter with the Hays County Sheriff’s Office remembers some of the frightening calls.
“Water is now rising up so high in their houses they cannot get out. That is a new level of response,” Carpenter describes. Carpenter was one of seven dispatchers working that weekend so the thousands of calls that came in quickly overwhelmed them.
“It hit so quick and the call volume went up so high, so fast that we just had to react and just go and do it.”
During that tragic night it might seem like those life-threatening calls are what bogged down the call center system, but it wasn’t, it was the non-emergency calls that slowed down response time.
Carpenter says they were also overwhelmed by basic information calls.
“Where’s the shelter, where do I evacuate? General questions from the public. If they can be fielded by other outlets then that just leaves us able to manage just emergencies,” Carpenter says.
She says 911 should never be used for non-emergencies.
“Utilize other resources to do that by looking at websites, by looking at the news and by calling non-emergency phone numbers,” Carpenter explains.
The Hays County Dispatch Center has a total of seven dispatchers. On a normal day, there are 4-5 dispatchers working. The county plans on having all seven dispatchers working staggered shifts this weekend along with several non-emergency call takers available.
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