INDIANAPOLIS — A woman says she was placed on hold for more than five minutes while on the phone with police dispatchers as she and a family member waited for first responders to come.
Denesa Webber was visiting Perry Township on Sept. 19 when her elderly aunt fell and hit her head. Webber says she called 911 immediately.
“I was expecting to hear '911, what's your emergency?'” Webber said. “We weren't going to risk it. We didn't know (whether) she had internal bleeding."
After waiting about a minute of waiting, she hung up and called again.
“They do the English; they do the Spanish introduction and then you hear kind of a crazy sound but then there's dead silence so you're not sure if they've hung up on you. I mean, are you waiting?” Webber said. “I kept thinking, 'Did I dial incorrectly?'” Webber said.
On the second call, Webber heard the same thing and continued to wait.
“I'm just in disbelief; I'm panicked at this point. I'm inside, I'm frustrated, probably grumbling and I wait another six minutes when I call back the second time,” Webber said.
According to Michael Romansky with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Emergency Services Agency, Webber was on hold for 4 minutes and 58 seconds. Once a dispatcher picked up and got the information, they transferred her to the fire and EMS dispatch.
In an email, he wrote, “Her call occurred during a high call traffic time of day. We are, unfortunately, very understaffed, and are implementing many different tactics to try to maximize our manpower and minimize caller wait time.”
He said in August the average wait time for a 911 call in Marion Count was 40 seconds.
“In the long haul, you know, she was okay. The EMTs were wonderful. The fire department was great,” Webber said.
Tom Sellas, the chief of MESA, said that when calling 911 there’s a queue. So if you get placed on hold, you should stay on the line.
“We don't know whose emergency has more seriousness to it, so again: staying on the line and being somewhat patient. And I know when you have an emergency you don't want to wait even one second but if you hang up, the thing that happens to you then is that you go to the end of that queue,” Selllas said.
Webber said, "To look back on it, I mean, I'm not angry at our situation. It was okay but what if it had been, you know a trauma, a stroke, a heart attack where seconds even would have mattered — or minutes."
Marion County is currently looking to hire more dispatchers.
The starting pay is $40,000 and Sellas said that will be bumped up soon. Benefits are included and training is provided. You need to be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and no felony or battery convictions.
You can apply right now at indy.gov.