Emergency Operators: Call Volume Extremely Heavy During Downburst

Montgomery, Al. (WSFA) -- As severe weather struck portions of Montgomery, phones at the city's 911 Operations Center rang off the hook.

"A tree fell across Glen Grattan [Drive] over here in the Old Cloverdale area," one caller explained.

"We're at Taylor and Vaughn Road.  The traffic lights are blinking and they're not working," said one female caller.

Emergency operators heard it all play out--calls pouring in as residents discovered the damage.

First 100 calls.  Then 200.  Then, more than 300 calls between 8:00 and 9:00 Thursday night.

"[Our operators] get into a very 'quick' mode, helping each other out, processing the calls for the citizens, [and] really making sure the citizens know that they're going to be okay," said Major Melinda Chandler, the city's 911 Operations Manager.

"911" wasn't the only three digit phone number seeing heavy traffic.

Callers also lit up the "311" lines at the City-County Emergency Operations Center--after the EMA activated the line around 9:00PM.

"Some people [were] just calling to report the power was out.  Some people [were] just calling to get information," explained Jim Barrett of the City-County EMA.

With nearly 100 calls coming into the EOC Thursday night--instead of 911--information could go to utility and maintenance workers.

Staffers say it's a move that saves precious time and frees up the city's emergency phone lines in the process.

"The call volume in the 911 center decreased significantly," Barrett said.

A welcome relief for emergency operators during a sudden crisis.

"'311' and '911' work very well together," Chandler explained.

Reporter:  Cody Holyoke