911 dispatchers receive over 500 calls on Saturday after Harrisonburg explosion

Published: Oct. 20, 2020 at 3:00 AM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Local 911 dispatchers said they felt the Harrisonburg explosion at the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Emergency Communications Center on Saturday and within seconds, got a call volume like no other.

On Saturday between 8:20 a.m. and 3 p.m., HRECC received 504 incoming and outgoing phone calls after the explosion.

Two women working at HRECC said it was one of the largest call volumes and responses they’ve experienced.

“We actually heard, as well as felt the building shake a little bit, so we knew something was going on and then all the calls came in,” Leslie Barb, a senior communicator at HRECC said.

From 8:20 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. Saturday morning, HRECC received 54 911 calls about the explosion. The HRECC operations manager Michael Sherman said on a typical Saturday dispatchers receive about 7 calls during that time.

“With all the calls and everything, we were trying to process everything and make sure people were safe," Barb said. "Once we established people were safe and we had responders on location helping, then it went very smooth.”

HRECC team started out as seven people on Saturday morning and after seeing the situation escalate so quickly, the assistant shift supervisor, Christina Adams called in backup.

“We ended up getting three additional call-takers, just to help answer the phones, make requests, anything we needed,” Adams said.

Adams said the initial spike in activity lasted for 30 to 45 minutes after people around the Valley heard and felt the explosion.

She said it’s high priority incidents like these that show just how well the team works together.

“We had people coming in from the other shifts. They sat down, started working. We all work together great. We had call takers, we had radio operators that were still making phone calls," Adams said. "A lot of teamwork was displayed and I was proud to see it.”

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