SUMNER COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – There are major growing pains for emergency communications in Sumner County.
On July 17, less than four weeks ago, most of the county consolidated under one roof.
Instead of individual cities like Millersville, Portland, Gallatin, Hendersonville, Westmoreland dispatching their own fire, police and ambulance calls, now every call comes in through the new Emergency Communications Center (ECC).
The system is supposed to streamline the process and make it more efficient with dispatchers fielding calls coming in and then farming them to the appropriate dispatchers dealing with the various agencies affected.
But there have been problems, some of which officers and city officials say are concerning.
There were two incidents last Friday night in Sumner County. The first happened around 6:15 p.m. when dispatchers at the ECC took a call about a Jeep rolling over with two women inside on Reynolds Street.
Several officers, including Gallatin motorcycle officer Jared Roach, activated their blue lights and sirens. Body cam shows the officer quickly circling the area to find the crash.
After much effort, it soon becomes obvious Officer Roach can’t find the serious wreck. He’s heard asking a resident, “Someone called and said a car flipped over and someone is hurt here on Reynolds.”
It turned out there was no rollover crash in Gallatin. Instead, the accident was in Hendersonville, some 15 miles away.
Thankfully, Hendersonville rescue crews were also being dispatching simultaneously to the real emergency.
Rhonda Lea, the director of the Sumner County ECC, admitted to News 2 there have been growing pains, and the handling of that call was the result of human error by a dispatcher.
“We are humans and make errors. The operator was trying to verify where the caller was coming from and an address popped up and the operator asked, ‘Are you here?’ and he said ‘yes,’ and then he gave another location and it was in two cities,” Lea explained.
She says the dispatcher was written up.
A few hours later, there was another incident that’s now being looked into. At 8:41 pm, the ECC sent Gallatin officers to 559 Main Street looking for a property damage wreck.
Officers spent 22 minutes looking for the wreck but found none.
That’s when a Gallatin officer reportedly asked ECC operators if they meant 599 Main Street in Hendersonville.
It’s then that officers in Hendersonville were dispatched to the call, some 20 minutes later. By the time Hendersonville police arrived at the location, nothing was found.
“We are investigating that as well,” Lea said, adding, “It comes back to our operators, and we are training a lot of different people, and we are having to learn how to get info into the CAD system.”
Lea admits consolidating an entire county with five cities, each with fire, police, ambulance services, has been challenging.
“Well, like I said, we are new and working on it, and it is getting better every day. The public knows we are here to serve and make sure they get the help they need. We want the best for citizens,” she told News 2.
Caryn Miller, city manager of Millersville, said, “We had a bumpy start, as expected. Growing pains.”
Miller told News 2 reports have been off, and officers have been told to wait when they call in on traffic stops. She understands growing pains, but not when officer safety is on the line.
“It’s serious concerns about the delays. Those are officers lives out there. You don’t tell an officer out there to stand by. You never know what they are calling in about” she explained.
The director of the ECC also told News 2, “We take our job seriously. It is very serious and want to provide the best service to our citizens and our client agencies, and, yes, we are new agency and learning and have a lot of challenges, and I feel we will provide that service.”