Joint communications adding new 911 operator next month

COLUMBIA, Mo. - New numbers show the Columbia-Boone County 911 Center took more calls last year than ever before.

In 2013 Joint Communications handled more than 424,000 phone calls in 2013. That's a 23% increase from 2012.

The increase of calls to 911 was not a surprise to Joint Communications employees. They tell ABC 17 News every year the expect the numbers to increase as the population grows.

The problem they are facing Thursday is they still have just one call taker.

"911, what's the address of your emergency?"

This is what people hope to hear on the other end of the line when they call for help.  But what if 911 put you on hold?

It has happened in Columbia.

"I'm sure it happens daily, but off the top of my head I can't give you a number," said Joint Communications, Director Joe Piper.

Joint Communications has had just one call-taker for more than 20 years.

In that time the population has increased by nearly 45,000 people.

Change is on its way, though.

"The morale is better in the room I think," said Piper.

That is because five people have been hired to fill the role of another full time call- taker.

Their training is almost complete and they will start answering phones next month.

"Our hope is in Feb. they will be trained as call takers to the level that they need minimum supervision from the on duty supervisor,"said Piper.

More hope is on the horizon in 2014.

Joint Communications plans on hiring a third full time call-taker, which means five more people.

"We're excited about that. And we are excited about going into a new facility," said Piper.

As of Thursday the expected opening date of the new facility is Jan. 1, 2016.

They know that the new building will be built on the Boone Co. Sheriff's Department property. However, are not sure exactly where yet.

With the new building Joint Communications will have more space for training and the ability to hire more call-takers.

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