(Tuesday) evening was very, very busy. From 3 p.m. until 11 p.m., our communications center received 589 telephone calls, of which 143 were on 911. The overwhelming number of calls were between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., when 365 calls came to our dispatch center. Of these 365 calls, 109 were on 911.
Comparing to last Tuesday from 3 p.m. until 11 p.m., we received 156 total telephone calls, of which 20 were on 911. The two-hour period from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. last week was only 41 total calls, of which five were on 911.
For the entire shift from 3 p.m. until 11 p.m., that was a 288 percent increase. For the two hours from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m., the increase was 790 percent.
We had four communications officers working (Tuesday) when the storm hit. A fifth came into work on her own to help out. Many of these 911 and non-emergency calls required dispatching of emergency personnel from law enforcement, fire, or EMS. Others required notifications to the state and county highway departments and the utility companies. It was non-stop for hours.
The Sheriff’s Communications Center handles 911 and non-emergency calls from the unincorporated areas of Anderson County along with the cities of Oliver Springs, Lake City, and Norris. 911 calls in Clinton and Oak Ridge are routed to their respective dispatch centers. However, we were receiving overflow 911 calls from both those cities due to the high call volume. This is how the 911 system is supposed to work, and it worked well.
Our communications center dispatches for the Sheriff’s Department, the Anderson County EMS, the five county volunteer fire departments, and the rescue squad. All of these agencies were dispatched to numerous reports of storm damage, trees and power lines down, and motor vehicle accidents, including the one where a semi-trailer was overturned on Lake City Highway. There were also several burglar alarms activated due to the storm or power outages. We notified the Anderson County Highway Department and the Tennessee Department of Transportation of trees blocking roadways. We also notified the Clinton Utilities Board when we were called about power outages.
The power was out at our dispatch center for several hours. The communications center has both battery-powered UPS systems and an emergency generator. There was no interruption of 911 or dispatch functions. All worked as it was supposed to and without any issues.
The credit for all these accomplishments and hard work goes to the communications officers who were on duty. They maintained their composure, took all these overwhelming number of calls, and dispatched public safety personnel throughout the evening. A good job by all.
Chief Deputy Mark Lucas
Anderson County Sheriff’s Department