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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