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No one answering at 911?


Downtown business owner Jackie Gunn recently called 911. No one answered.

"I thought, my God, I've misdialed," Gunn says.

She tried again. The phone rang. And rang.

Frantic, and in an emergency situation, Gunn tried one more time. The phone continued to ring, until someone finally answered.

Just getting in touch with emergency personnel took Gunn five minutes. Thankfully, everything turned out OK. But the experience outraged her.

"You just think when you call 911, someone's going to answer," she says.

Colorado Springs' emergency response center hasn't been able to keep up with call volume lately. August statistics from the El Paso-Teller County Enhanced 911 Authority show that the average 911 call in Colorado Springs took 11.5 seconds to answer. Compare that to El Paso County, where an average call was answered in 3.6 seconds.

"Anything between 3 to 5 seconds we consider normal," says Jim Anderson, the 911 system manager for the authority.

Tina Young, manager of the Springs' public safety communications center, says she's hoping to get more staff and better technology to address the problem.

But she doesn't have the money. There's a chance the 2008 city budget could give her more funds to meet the need. Interim City Manager Mike Anderson won't comment on the budget yet. But one thing is for certain: It is tight.

City Councilwoman Margaret Radford says even with a small budget, the council always wants to adequately fund emergency services.

"One of the most important things we do as a city is provide police and fire protection," she says.

For now, Young says, callers need to be aware that their calls to 911 could take a while to be answered.

But don't hang up, she says. Because of the way the phone system works, hanging up and calling back will only increase your wait time.

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