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911 Director: Atlanta Has Too Few Dispatchers

ATLANTA (AP) - The director of Atlanta's 911 center says he has
half the staff needed to handle the calls that come in during peak
weekend and evening shifts because of the city's budget troubles.

Director Miles Butler says the limited staffing is one reason
residents calling about a house fire in the city's Grant Park
neighborhood Saturday had trouble reaching a 911 operator.

Butler said just six dispatchers were answering calls that
night, down from the 10 to 12 operators who would have been working
before the cutbacks.

Panicked neighbors dialed 911 as they watched Wilford Reed's
house burn down and got computer recordings instead of dispatchers.

The first call about Reed's house came into the 911 center at
10:58 p.m. Butler said the caller hung up after five seconds. Fire
officials say the first fire truck with hoses didn't arrive at the
house until 17 minutes later.

Emergency workers warned city council members Tuesday that
layoffs and furloughs are putting Atlanta residents in danger.

Butler said his 150-member staff has 33 vacancies that he
couldn't fill until three weeks ago because of an ongoing hiring
freeze.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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