VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - A Virginia Beach man waited more than four minutes to get help for his infant who stopped breathing.
"I've never been more scared when that happened and I didn't.. I didn't know what to do," Carl Higbie told 10 On Your Side.
Eight-week-old McKenzie turned blue. Higbie put her in the car and stayed on the line. He said he was pulling into the hospital when he heard the operator say, "Virginia Beach 911, what is the emergency?"
Higbie asked for a supervisor so he could file a formal complaint.
10 On Your Side went to the 911 center in Virginia Beach to find out what happened.
"We don't like anyone to be on hold, however our reality today, certain times of the day or certain incidents can drive that someone will be on hold when they call 911," Emergency Communications Director Athena Plummer said.
Plummer said cell phones are driving call overload not just in Virginia Beach, but in 911 centers nationwide.
"As an example, we had a brush fire on Interstate 264, we had over 50 calls that came in," Plummer said.
10 On Your Side pulled the 911 call log from the day of Higbie's emergency. It was a Friday afternoon, typically one of the busiest times of the week.
Higbie's call was one of 75 calls received between 3:45 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. 10 On Your Side found several car accidents reported and there was more than one call made for each of them. There were also two reports of a driver with a gun, and three calls for high water on First Colonial Road and Great Neck.
Compared to the previous two Fridays, that day was much busier, possibly due to a rain storm.
"The majority of people get through with no problems," Plummer said. "Our average speed of answer is seven seconds."
She also told WAVY.com the city is working on a new mapping system that will allow all operators to see when calls are clustered to one area.
Those calls would all go to the same one or two operators, freeing up the rest to take other calls. They're also working on technology that will allow you to send a text message, video or picture.
"We're on the cusp of that. We're two to three years from that portion of it," Plummer said.
If you're put on hold, Plummer recommends staying on the line. She said someone will be with you as soon as possible.
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