Oklahoma City's 911 center gets fair share of calls, but not all are emergencies

BY MATT DINGER Published: November 1, 2010
Advertisement
;

photo - 911 dispatchers take calls at the Emergency Communications Center in Oklahoma City on Friday.
PHOTO BY PAUL HELLSTERN, THE OKLAHOMAN  PAUL HELLSTERN
911 dispatchers take calls at the Emergency Communications Center in Oklahoma City on Friday. PHOTO BY PAUL HELLSTERN, THE OKLAHOMAN PAUL HELLSTERN

Nearly 1 million 911 calls are made every year to the Oklahoma City Emergency Communications Center, and many fall well below what most people would consider an emergency.

Call-taker Brenda Grayson said people will phone because their kids won't get up and go to school, their boyfriends won't come inside the house when told, or their husbands change the channel on the television and won't change it back.

"Every call is different. Nothing surprises me," she said.

About a third of the callers actually need police officers, firefighters or paramedics to be dispatched, said James Fitzpatrick, director of the center. And only 4 percent of those dispatched calls are "priority one" situations, requiring an immediate response.

Of the remaining calls, many come from children playing with telephones, the mentally ill, or people calling with situations that can't be classified as an emergency.

One caller phoned from his home to ask if it was illegal to be drunk.

And then there are the food calls.

Dispatcher Miles Lewis quoted one caller: "They didn't give me my sweet-and-sour sauce."

Hamburgers can be a problem.

"A lady called because her bun didn't have seeds on it," Lewis said. "She was at a Burger King on the south side."

"People will pull into the drive-through and not move because they're mad," said Stephanie Van Nort, another dispatcher. "I had one at a Chinese place. She bought the buffet but complained that the food looked bad. The restaurant had denied the woman a refund, and she was incensed."