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Operators standing by
911 Center posts busier year in 2008
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Above and top right, Amberly Zimbardi enters information into the computer system Thursday at the 911 center. - photo by Emily Saunders
For the Forsyth County 911 Center, 2008 was a busy year.

In fact, it was nearly 10 percent busier than 2007.

According to statistics released recently by the county, the center received 181,764 calls last year. That’s 16,153 more calls than the year before.

Pat Giordano, 911 center director, said the increase is due in part to the fact that authorities can electronically report incidents they respond to while patrolling, rather than just logging them on their clipboards.

“Now that the deputies have computers in their cars, they’re able to type those things in themselves,” she said.

Not all calls are dispatched, and numbers include both emergency and nonemergency calls.

A breakdown of the figures shows that the center dispatched 139,894 calls, an increase of about 11 percent, to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.

The Forsyth County Fire Department had 11,357 calls, an increase of about 6 percent, while Emergency Medical Services calls increased to 8,191, or about 9 percent more than in 2007.

The center dispatched 1,918 calls to Cumming police, which was a decrease of about 5 percent over 2007.

Giordano could not explain the change in police numbers.

“That doesn’t mean their numbers went down, that’s just the calls we transferred to them,” she said. “We handled less calls for them.”

She said the overall increase in calls hasn’t yet led to hiring additional operators, though she hopes to fill one position on each of the center’s four shifts in the next few months.

“We’re just trying to get up to what we had in previous years,” she said of her staff, which numbers about 40.

She said the center is tracking the use of a new program in other states. Called Next Generation 911, it allows callers to send emergency text messages.

“We’re watching some of the larger centers in different states who are testing it now to see how it goes before we make any moves to purchase anything like that,” she said.

In another trend, Giordano said the center continues to receive calls about nonemergencies.

For example, drivers call wanting to know why traffic is backed up on certain roads. Residents sometimes call during heavy storms to report power outages instead of calling the power company.

The center also has received calls from parents wanting a deputy to come out and make their child get on a school bus.

In addition, 911 calls from cell phones increased by about 4 percent from 2007 to 2008. Statistics show there were 48,389 wireless calls in 2008 as opposed to 46,352 in 2007.

E-mail Julie Arrington at