High number of 911 calls, request for more dispatchers in Dubuqu - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

High number of 911 calls, request for more dispatchers in Dubuque

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Imagine calling 911 for help, but the person on the other end, puts you on hold.

It's something dispatchers at the Dubuque 911 Communication Center, have had to do.

"It can be crazy in here," said Mark Murphy, emergency communication manager. "They'll  triage the calls, answer, find out what's going on, if they can put them on hold, and move on to the next. Take, deal with the severest calls first."

The center which handles calls for all of Dubuque County, at times gets swamped with a high volume of calls -- up to 480 per day.

Murphy said the calls range from the most minor to the most extreme.

"People complaining about a car that's been parked on the street for a couple days, to a heart-attack or my baby is not breathing or my house is on fire."

It's a lot to juggle for a staff with only about four dispatchers during the weekday.

This is why the 911 center is asking for an additional full-time dispatcher in this year's City of Dubuque budget. "It would help take some of the call answering off some of the other staff, if they're busy with the radio. If there's a pursuit going on, it takes their attention away from the radio."

It would also help with answering calls from officers in the field, and monitoring the street cameras. 

However, Murphy mentioned even if more dispatchers are working, there can still be problems answering calls. It just depends on how busy it gets, which is unpredictable.

In total, there are 13 full-time dispatchers, and six part-timers. 

The 911 center is also asking for a part-time clerk position to help alleviate some of the paperwork at the center. City Manager Mike Van Milligen is recommending the clerk position as part of the budget. 

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