911 dispatchers share Harvey experience

During the storm, calls for help poured into emergency centers across the Gulf Coast.

HOUSTON - During Hurricane Harvey, 911 calls poured into emergency centers across the county as dispatchers on the other side of phone never stopped picking up.

In the chaos of a catastrophe, he’s the voice that calms the storm.

“I'm here with you, we’re rooting for you, and we’re going to do what we need to do to help you," HCSO Communication Officer Charles Jackson said.

Jackson used his voice to calm not hundreds, but thousands, of scared evacuees over the past ten days.

If you called 911, it’s possible he answered.

“We all have family, friends, loved ones and you try to put yourself in that position," Jackson said.

On a normal day, 911 centers across the Greater Harris County area get about 300 calls an hour. During Harvey, they got up to 3,000 calls an hour.

“Sometimes there were tears, tears in the break room, and that sort of thing. But by the time we got back on the phones, it was work as usual," Jackson said.

Once Jackson hung up, he gave the info to a dispatcher like Julie Armstrong.

“The calls were just coming in and coming in," HCSO Communication Officer Julie Armstrong said.

She’s in the ear of the first responders.

“Who’s needing help right now? Where do I need to go? And that’s where the deputies tried to focus their point on," Armstrong said.

Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai stopped by the call center to study how the situation was handled, and to see if there’s any lesson to be learned.

“Really made Houstonians a lot better off than they otherwise would’ve been," Pai said. "Going forward, there are things we are going to be looking at to see if there are any gaps in our communication capabilities when a storm like this hits. And to try to fill those gaps.”

And in the midst of the flood, those answering the calls even had their own homes fall victim to the rising waters, but that never kept them from picking up.

“This is not an easy job. This is not for everyone. When you sign up for the military, there are things that are expected from you. Sacrifices that you have to make, personal," Jackson said. 

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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