911 dispatchers respond to hundreds of victims - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

911 dispatchers respond to hundreds of victims

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March 7, 2007

Sumter County--  As severe weather pummeled south Georgia last Thursday night, the Middle Flint Regional 911 Center answered more than 1,800 calls in six hours.   That 911 center handles calls for seven counties, three of them hit by severe weather.  They're Taylor, Webster and Sumter counties.

You can imagine hundreds of calls came in.   Many of them came from terrified people who survived a direct hit from a tornado.  WALB had a listen to some of those dramatic recordings.

Before tornadoes left all of the devastation in Sumter County, it left people in complete darkness.

911 Caller: "I can't see in here!"

Dispatcher: "Ma'am I know but we don't have any lights anywhere."

No seats were empty at the Middle Flint Regional 911 Center in Ellaville as dispatchers handled call upon call Thursday night.

Dispatcher: "Middle Flint 911, where's your emergency?"

Caller: "Yes ma'am, I just heard a tornado on the ground on Taylor street in downtown Americus.

Dispatcher: "Yes sir. We have them coming through."

"It was pretty hectic," said 911 Center Director Ellice Fancher.

Some calls were fairly calm.

Caller: "I have a tree in my bedroom."

Then there were frantic calls for help.

Caller: "Please come to 908 Elmo street please."

Dispatcher: "908 Elmo? What's going on?

Caller: "It's just tore up. Please."

People all over town were trapped inside of their homes and businesses.

Caller: "We are stuck in the Church's Chicken Bathroom. We can't get out."

Dispatcher: "In who bathroom?"

Caller: "Church's Chicken!"

Dispatcher: "Listen. Stay in there. You're away from the glass. Just stay there ok?"

Caller: "OK."

From the looks of the destroyed Winn-Dixie, it's hard to believe anyone made it out of there safely.

One caller made a plea for at least six people stuck inside.

Caller: "We're in Winn-Dixie Supermarket. It's four of us in the back of the store but it was two other folks in the...

Loud Scream

Dispatcher: "Hey, who's screaming?"

Dispatcher: "Listen, stay away from the glass, away from the shelves ok?"

Caller "We're away from the shelves. We're in the back of the store."

Dispatcher: "Ok that's good. You stay there. I'm going to send someone to check on you as soon as it clears ok?"

There were so many calls, dispatchers could only do so much.

"You basically have to tell people take care of yourself and we'll get to you as soon as we possibly could," said Fancher.

Caller: "This is Mitch Grant. Sumter County Regional Hospital has just taken a direct hit."

That's when those in uniform stepped in.  Firefighters were one of the first to respond.

"We love our job and that's what we're here for, to help others in need," said Americus Fire Department Captain Ronnie McCrary.

Law enforcement officials have been working non-stop since the calls first started, pulling together to ensure everyone was safe in the city and county.

"I couldn't ask for anything better. To serve with people like this, to be with them it's just outstanding," said Americus Police Chief James Green.

It's a night that certainly won't be forgotten.

Dispatcher: "911 what's your emergency?"

Caller: "Dogwood Hills Road. A tornado came through here and I don't see the houses. The houses are gone. We need some help!"

Many answered the calls for help.

Dispatcher: "What's the address where you're at maam?"

Caller: "He's got two broke legs, broke arms."

Dispatcher: "What's the address?"

Caller "Watermelon Road!"

The road to recovery is made a little less bumpy, thanks to those who answered the calls and those who first responded.

feedback: news@walb.com?subject=Sumter911Calls