Residents call for changes to Dunwoody's 911 system - CBS46 News

Residents call for changes to Dunwoody's 911 system

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It has been nearly three years since the city of Dunwoody switched their 911 calls from DeKalb County to a company called ChatComm. That switch caused built-in delays for all fire and medical calls the city received.

Since switching to ChatComm, the city estimates that 10,000 fire and medical calls have been placed. Many of those calls have experienced a minimum transfer delay of 30 seconds and, depending on call volumes, as many as three minute delays.

"I felt like it was almost impossible to get help," Maxine McQuaig said. "I was saying, ‘God, you gotta help me now.'"

McQuaig called Dunwoody's 911 center run by ChatComm last month after she experienced shortness of breath and thought she was going to pass out. When she called Dunwoody she had to give the operator all of her information, then she was transferred to DeKalb County's 911 center, where she was placed on hold. When an operator finally answered, McQuaig had to answer all of the same questions again.

"It was annoying, and a waste of time," McQuaig said. "I was praying somebody would pick up before I passed out on the floor. Because I am here by myself," McQuaig said. "I know what happened to me was wrong. If I had a cardiac arrest, I wouldn't be alive today."

It turned out McQuaig had internal bleeding and would end up spending two days in the hospital. Weeks later she is still recovering and gaining back her strength but is now asking serious questions about what she went through.

"There is an inherent delay in being able to send that over," Warren Hutmacher, the city manager for Dunwoody, said. "Sometimes that delay is 30 seconds, sometimes it is over a minute, a few minutes, just depends on the nature of the call and how busy the 911 centers are."

Hutmacher said he regrets that it has taken nearly three years for ChatComm and DeKalb County's 911 centers to be able to communicate with both of their computer-aided dispatch systems.

Until both CAD systems are linked and compatible, the 911 calls transferred for fire and medical calls will continue to have the delays and extra questions being asked of callers in emergency situations.

A majority of the calls, 90 percent, according to Hutmacher, are calls for police. Roughly 10 percent are calls for fire and medical. Hutmacher said ChatComm is set up to dispatch Dunwoody police immediately to a call because they are not transferred. Dunwoody does not have its own fire and emergency medical personnel and rely solely on DeKalb County.

Former Dunwoody City Council member Danny Ross said Hutmacher has dropped the ball on linking the two computer systems and should be held accountable.

"I think he should be fired," Ross said. "He has put our community at risk for the past 2 1/2 years and it shouldn't have happened."

McQuaig said the next time there is an emergency, she's going to call her next door neighbor first.

"I just don't trust them," McQuaig said.

Hutmacher said he plans to have the two systems linked within the next 30 days.

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