Storms, downed phone lines strain Augusta's 911 Center

911 Center
The severe weather caused Augusta's 911 Center to be swamped with calls of downed trees and other damage.
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June 16, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Downed phone lines and a flood of emergency calls greeted the new director of Augusta's 911 Center during Wednesday night's storm.

It's an operation that can only be described as hectic, all with new leadership at the helm. Even a day after the severe weather, things are still busy at the 911 center.

"It is off the chain," says Bob Mclerren, who works as an operator. "When a caller comes in, they are usually agitated or they are irate."

The center shared some Richmond County calls with News 12.

"You got a big tree hanging down with limbs on it," reports one caller.

"Yes sir. We have got the fire department en route to you. Victoria Street, correct?" the operator asks.

"I can barely hear you," the caller says.

"You're on Victoria, right?" the operator replies.

"It gets pretty crazy you have to take the calls one at a time," Mclerren said. "And sometimes it can be mundane as 'I locked my keys in the car'."

Downed trees made up many of the 569 calls the center got between 10 p.m. Wednesday and 5 a.m. Thursday.

"There is a tree completely down in the middle of the road. You can't go around or nothing," a caller reports.

"Ma'am, we have multiple trees down in the city right now. Please stay inside; we are getting it taken care of as soon as possible," the operator advises.

Eight operators were on duty during the storm, but the weather knocked out two of their phone lines.

"They were extremely busy, but they continued to operate under sometimes stressful conditions," said Dominick Nutter, who has only been on the job for six days.

Nutter used to work as director of emergency services at Fort Gordon.

"It's a new position. It's a new challenge, and definitely a learning experience. And last night was a good test of not only myself, but my staff," he said.

County officials say people should only call 911 in an emergency, like if power lines are down or someone is trapped.

Many called for trees down in yards or on empty cars, which tied up lines for people who were injured or needed assistance.