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Wave of 9-1-1 calls generated by Maine earthquake overwhelms system

Date: 2012-10-19
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On October 16th, a magnitude 4.0 earthquake centered near Waterboro, Maine (where earthquakes of this size are a rarity), triggered a flood of calls to 9-1-1 - but not from people seeking emergency assistance.  Most were simply looking for information about the quake.

"What happens in some of these instances, like the earthquake the other day, power outages, and usually the first good snowstorm of the year, we start getting a lot of calls into the dispatch center that are not emergency calls," explained Robb Couture, a lieutenant with the South Portland Fire Department, to Portland (ME) news channel WCSH6. "What happens is those calls very quickly back-up, and people who are calling with actual emergencies may have to wait to have their calls answered."                        (photo: wcsh6.com)

The Emergency Communications Center (ECC) in Portland (pictured, right), which dispatches fire, police and medical personnel for Portland, South Portland, and Cape Elizabeth, received over 170 calls in about a half hour after the earthquake struck, making it nearly impossible for anyone with an emergency to get through without a lengthy wait.

"That 172 calls represents a little over half of our calls that we would get in a day," ECC director Tom Cavanaugh told WCSH6. "So that is a significant spike."

Read the full story at WCSH6 Portland (Maine), includes video story

- People, Places & Things/9-1-1magazine.com (via WCSH6, 10/18/12)

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