The president of Lexington’s firefighters union, which represents 98 percent of the firefighters, has voiced concerns on social media over citizens being placed on hold when calling 911.
Cpt. Christopher Bartley, 42, took to Twitter Thursday morning to publicize complaints the fire department has received and to criticize Robert Stack, the director of Lexington’s Enhanced 911 Center.
Bartley, who has been with the department more than 17 years, filed a formal request on Dec. 1 for 911 data relating to calls placed on hold. Bartley said Stack told him the request for data could not be filled because the 911 center does not keep those stats.
Stack did not return two calls for comment on Thursday afternoon.
“He’s fine with the status quo,” Bartley said. “We’re concerned about the safety issue. Fires grow at a rapid rate and every second counts. If somebody is having a cardiac arrest, you need to get oxygen to the brain as soon as possible.”
Public Safety Commissioner Ronnie Bastin confirmed that calls made to 911 may be placed on hold but he said 95 percent are answered within 10 seconds.
“There is one difference with our new system: now, when we have calls waiting to be answered, a recording will answer the call and citizens should just hang on until the 911 operator answers,” Bastin said. “With our previous system, the call would just keep ringing and ringing until the operator picked it up.”
Bartley described an incident from early November that a fellow firefighter responded to. A woman driving home from work around 7 a.m. came upon what looked like a rug in the middle of Richmond Road near St. Joseph East Hospital. The rug was actually a person, Bartley said. When the woman tried to call 911, she was placed on hold, Bartley said.
Bartley also discussed an instance Saturday when he was placed on hold after calling 911 to report a car accident on Interstate 64.
“I find it unacceptable,” Bartley said.
At a state level, there are no formal 911 guidelines about placing people on hold, said Joe Barrows, executive director for the Office of State 911 Coordinator & Commercial Mobile Radio Services (CMRS) Board in Frankfort. The board is attached to Homeland Security and works to improve 911 services around Kentucky.
“Whether it is a good idea or a bad idea, it doesn’t make any sense to put anyone on hold,” Barrows said.
Lexington’s 911 center employs 24 call takers (who answer 911 calls), 31 dispatchers (who answer 911 calls and also talk to public safety in the field), eight supervisors (who answer 911 calls and also talk to public safety in the field, among other duties), and three managers, said Susan Straub, spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Gray.
Fernando Alfonso III: 859-231-1324, @fernalfonso