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Mom expresses concern over 911 system in Marion County

Posted at 8:50 PM, Jul 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-02 21:54:40-04

INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis mother is looking for answers after she said she wasn't able to get through right away when she called 911 after her son was shot.

'You have reached 911 emergency dispatch, do not hang up. Stay on the line for the next available dispatcher.'

That is what Tiffany Coker heard moments after her son had been shot on a Sunday afternoon.

"I wait and I hold. I wait and I hold," Coker said. "I wait and I hold and I get the recording again and I am like, 'No!'"

According to call logs, she waited on hold for one minute and 38 seconds before hanging up and calling again. That time she hung up after waiting for 16 seconds. A dispatcher called her back right after that.

"It was just unacceptable that my son is being shot, I'm calling 911 and I'm getting a recording," Coker said.

RELATED STORY | Tracking time to answer 911 calls in Marion County

Leaders at the dispatch center agree.

"Her call should be answered a lot sooner and it wasn't," Maj. Michael Hubbs, of the Marion County Sheriff's Office, said.

Hubbs said in this case there were several factors that led to the delay. When Coker called 911, calls were also coming in for a hit-and-run crash, a reckless driver and an unconscious person. Hubbs said her wait time was well above Marion County's average which is currently 11.4 seconds. He said situations like this don't happen often but when they do they stick with him.

"Every day I go home at night and think about these types of calls that don't get through," Hubbs said. "I want to apologize to her."

Hubbs said abuse of the 911 system also leads to delays. He said about 60 percent of the calls they get at the dispatch center are not emergencies and they tie up valuable dispatcher time.

"We've had these incidents in the past and unfortunately I think they will continue to happen until we refine some areas of the 911 system in regards to how we use it, abuse," Hubbs said.

In the long-term, Hubbs said they need to look at increasing pay for dispatchers and eventually upgrade and expand the dispatch center to a larger facility. It's something Coker said should be done sooner than later.

"Luckily, my son is okay but what if he wasn't, you know, and I don't want to think about that," Coker said. "The last thing you want to hear about is because the phone lines are busy or we couldn't get through that a child or elderly person passed away because they couldn't get the proper services in the adequate amount of time."

Leaders at the dispatch center said education is key. They want to remind residents to call the non-emergency line if possible and if you do call 911 and get placed on hold do not hang up. The dispatch center said your call remains in the queue and calling back just ties up the system. Calls are answered and returned in the order they are received.

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