Fireworks Complaints Keep Dispatchers Busy

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Emergency dispatchers in Sedgwick County are slammed with so many phone calls complaining about fireworks the week of Independence Day that a non-emergency hotline is set up and operated by dispatchers working overtime to keep 911 lines from being overwhelmed.

The complaint line, available from 6:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. at 316-290-1011, was so popular last year, it has been made available four nights this year.

Calls to the line include anything from noise complaints to people asking dispatchers advice on where to legally shoot fireworks. Calls like those so overwhelmed Sedgwick County's 911 on July 4, 2011, that people trying to report a motorcycle accident in northwest Wichita, which later proved fatal, got busy signals.

That's why Sedgwick County 911 launched the non-emergency hotline in 2012.

"We just ran it the one night last year and this year we decided to expand it and try to take some of the pressure off of 911," said Kim Pennington, Interim 911 Director.

That pressure nearly doubles on the Fourth of July, just with emergency calls.

"Last year, on the Fourth of July, we had over 2,400 911 calls," Pennington said. "In a typical day, we average 1,200 to 1,400 calls for a 24-hour time period."

This year, Pennington and other emergency communications officials decided to make the line available from July 3 to July 6. It was plenty active during its first night, Pennington said.

"We had 967 911 calls during that 6:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. time period and 197 nuisance complaint calls on our other line," she said.

Of course, any fireworks-related emergencies should still be reported to 911, though those handling calls on the complaint line are trained dispatchers and can send emergency help.

"When you have a holiday celebrated by blowing up explosives, there's going to be real emergencies happen," Pennington said.

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