Non-Emergency Callers Overwhelm 911 Operators

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - People around the Tennessee Valley get antsy when the first snow flake falls. Some hop in their cars, stay home and others make a few calls before making their move.

One group of critical personnel handles a lot of those calls. The call-takers are probably at the point of screaming. It's likely come to that point a few times in the last couple of days with the recent snowstorms.

A 911 operator told WHNT News 19 he loves helping callers in need, but wants to make sure the people calling him are in need.

It is hard to pinpoint the minute a snowflake will start its fall. It's even harder to predict a few.

You could say the same for someone making a call to Madison County's 911 Call Center.

“'It`s unexpected. You can get anything at any time,” said 911 Operator Chuck Tonini.

The 911 operators work in groups. Each handles police, fire and HEMSI.

“We spread the wealth pretty well, but we get a call every 5-10 minutes,” added Tonini.

Tonini says no two calls are the same. He's in his 15th year working as a 911 operator in Madison County. He's manned the phone many times when weather was a threat.

Tonini has wasted more time than he'd prefer listening to questions with answers someone could find elsewhere.

“It runs the gamut. It can be anything from what roads are closed, what businesses are closed or can I get up on the mountain,” said Tonini.

The 911 operators know those calls are important to some, but urge the people to stop and think before dialing.

“So, people who have real emergencies can call and reach us,” added Tonini.

Madison County’s 911 Call Center is the largest call center of this type in the state. It still gets overloaded. Please give operators a break. Do not call them unless you have a true emergency.

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