New 911 Center Criticized For Mishandled Calls - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/16/04 - Smith County

New 911 Center Criticized For Mishandled Calls

It was supposed to streamline emergency calls in Smith County, bringing everything under one roof. But, some local emergency workers say a new 911 communication center has only made things worse.

Opened in January, the center cost taxpayers more than $2 million, but local emergency workers said since the move, there have only been problems.

"The problems that we've been encountering over the last few months are basically new problems," said Richard Bellar, Lindale Fire Chief and communication district board member.

Bellar works as the liaison between the board and local fire department so he hears many of the complaints.

"I've had a least 30, today.  I've had some more calls of complaints and documentation that they are forwarding too me so I can handle them with the 911 center."

The complaints range from bad directions to late pages. A late page is just what happened to Hide-a-Way Lake resident Jeff Shamburger, who after calling 911 early Tuesday had to wait more than an hour before Lindale Firefighters arrived.

"That's unacceptable in my book," he said "The amount of time that it took for them to get out here. I don't know where the fault lies, but I'll probably rethink it next time."

Eddie Goldsmith is the Director of the 911 Center. He takes responsibility for the late page Tuesday morning, but said to fix it he needs to know about it.

"What has to happen is the citizens of this county, the agencies that we provide service for, need to understand I provide a service, they tell me how that service is to be provide." he said.

He said only better communication between local departments and himself can help do that.

Tyler is the only city in Smith County that is not currently using the new 911 center. It plans to move there in the next few months.

Both Goldsmith and Bellar said no matter what is causing the problems, they hope to fix them through better communication.

Chris Gibson, reporting

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