There were 312 calls that lit up phone lines at Bradley County's 911 Center Tuesday during first shift. That's about 100 more than the standard rate.
Samantha Westfield works first shift and describes the intensity when the winter weather event throttled the county.
Westfield said, "There's so much adrenaline in the room. There's so many people calling in panicked and upset, you just have to deal with it the best that you can. It comes over to us when you're hearing that kind of emotion."
Yesterday was every hand on board, an operator at each of the eight call stations.
Between 11:00 a.m and 2:00 p.m., 177 calls came in. And of the entire first shift, 144 calls were accidents without injuries.
A sample of the calls rushing in yesterday provides a glimpse of the day. A caller tells the operator, "I don't know if anybody got hurt or not. But this guy was standing beside his van, another one came down and I mean they hit hard."
On another call with a car off the roadway, an operator asks a caller: "Are you partially in the roadway?" The caller responds, "Yes. My back end's up in the air, my front's in the ditch."
Westfield said days like yesterday require the best of a 911 operator. "It's always very tense, but it's just an adrenaline rush. You can tell everybody's on edge. You start sensing people move forward in their chair and they're sitting more upright. You can just feel the tension, but it's not like an upset tension, it's just that you know you're busy."
During these emergency events, operators have to have a certain temperament. The director and assistant director are out of the office today at a conference. Tammy Watkins has taken command in their absence. "They're (emergency events) all different. You can train and you can prepare. But really it takes a lot of common sense and a lot of calmness," Watkins said.
A look around Cleveland today and you see the remnants of a 17 car pile-up on Paul Huff Parkway. Parents and workers got out on the roadways before the road crews. Troy Spence, Bradley County EMA Director, said that proved problematic. "They blocked some of the main arteries going out of schools and where they needed to travel. And that delayed several hours especially Cleveland Middle School, who was delayed about four hours of being able to pull the bus out of the parking lot."
Back at 911, it's a new day. Westfield said with a bright smile, "Today is very nice, I'll just say that. We've had a few calls but nothing compared to what it was yesterday. This has been more like a normal day for us and it's really nice after yesterday."
by John Madewell