Covington-Newton 9-1-1- Center's call volume increases by 6 percent

COVINGTON -- Covington-Newton County 9-1-1 Communications Center Director Mike Smith recently issued a report showing more than 110,000 calls for service were received and handled by dispatchers at the center during 2011. This represented an increase of nearly 6 percent overall compared to 2010.

"Since 2001 the 9-1-1 Center has seen a rapid increase in calls for service to our present level with no increase in staffing levels until July 2011," Smith stated in his annual report. "In spite of these numbers, the 9-1-1 Center continues to work diligently to answer every call as quickly and as professionally as possible."

The 19 dispatchers at the center answer calls for service and agency assistance from the Covington Police Department, Newton County Animal Control, Newton County Sheriff's Office, Oxford Police Department, Porterdale Police Department, Covington Fire Department, Newton County Fire Department and Newton County EMS. There are also five members of support staff employed at the center.

In addition to 112,712 calls for service from the public, 124,722 assistance to agency calls were handled, including those from law enforcement, animal control, fire departments and Newton EMS.

"It is our job to make sure the citizens are safe and everybody gets the help they need whether it be police officers or firemen or a citizen," said Operations Manager Trudy Henry.

Law enforcement calls were broken down as follows:

Covington Police, 31,771

Newton County Animal Control, 604

Newton County Sheriff's Office 66,540

Oxford Police, 1,910

Porterdale Police 4,435

Fire Department calls included 2,632 generated by the Covington Fire Department and 6,657 for the Newton County Fire Department.

Calls generated by Newton County EMS totaled 10,737.

The biggest upsurge in calls was generated by law enforcement with 78.82 percent of the calls, up 6.89 percent from 2010, and fire departments with 7.45 percent, which was up 7.67 percent over 2010.

There was an increase in total call volume in 2011, with emergency calls received on the 9-1-1 lines increasing by nearly 4,000 or 7.2 percent. Other calls handled by the center included wireless 9-1-1 calls, transfers, incoming and outgoing administrative calls and abandoned 9-1-1, or hang-up, calls. The administrative call volume increased by nearly 6,000 calls or 3.6 percent.

"After all totals were examined, the hourly average of phone calls processed remained the same," Smith said.

Henry, who was been at the center for 18 years, said 9-1-1 dispatchers are in a very stressful profession.

"There's a lot of multi-tasking involved," she said, adding other factors included, "sitting in a small room for 12 hours at a time, you never know what the next call is going to be and you always have to be ready for the worst."

She said many would-be employees decide early on the job is not for them.

"We lose our people in training. Once they get through the training phase, they usually hang around for awhile." she said. "But sometimes they find out the job is not what they expected it to be, find out it's too stressful or they can't deal with the kind of calls we have to take. And, sometimes we get talked down to on the phone, because the people who are calling us are sometimes at their worst. We understand that, but sometimes it's hard to listen to."