Woman reports long 911 wait time after city officials highlighted improvements

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- City officials said they were looking into a 911 call incident after WREG reported a caller waited three-and-a-half minutes before hanging up Friday night. She never spoke with a dispatcher.

Sarah Fenderson was driving on Interstate 40 east with her fiance when they saw an accident.

“It looked pretty bad. It was just one car. It looked like it’d hit the median and spun around. I didn’t see anyone standing outside, so I don’t know if the person was distracted driving or someone had hit them and then kept going,” Fenderson said.

She said she dialed the city’s nonemergency number, but after a minute and a half on hold, she hung up so she could just call 911.

“I continued to be on hold for three-and-a-half minutes until we gave up and hoped someone was on the way,” she said.

Her experience contrasted with the one reported by city officials last month.

Officials announced they’d lowered the average 911 wait time from about one minute to 14 seconds.

“Developing part-time call-taking positions, anything that got bodies in the chair showed immediate improvement to bringing up the numbers,” said Mike Spencer, Memphis Police communications supervisor.

Fenderson’s call lasted 14 times longer than the city's reported 2016 average, and that was before she hung up; she didn't know how much longer she would’ve waited if she stayed on the line for a dispatcher to answer.

"When it could be a life-and-death situation, three-and-a-half minutes can mean a lot," she said. "Maybe there's some tracking or more work that needs to be done on their end."

City officials told WREG they were investigating what happened. They took detailed information Tuesday and promised to provide answers soon.


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