Plum residents question why 911 put them on hold when reporting house fire

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PLUM BOROUGH, Pa. - Some residents in Plum Borough panicked Thursday evening when they saw a neighbor’s home on fire and were put on hold when they called 911.

"I was, like, panicking. It went into this automated all lines were busy, and they were putting me on hold," said Charity Pagan, who lives right next door to a home on Stonehaven Court that was engulfed in flames around 6 p.m.

Officials at the Allegheny County 911 Emergency Operations Center said 911 calls on Thursday evening were on overload with 32 calls coming within six minutes. Two of those calls were for the house fire, with the first coming in at 5:48 p.m.

Officials said in just over a minute, firefighters were on their way to the fire.

So why were residents put on hold?

"From the call-taker’s point, when [the lines] all become busy, it all flows into the zone. It is still ringing, but all that caller hears is that recording, ‘All of the call-takers are busy stay, on the line,’” said Allegheny County 911 operator Rebecca Frazier.

In this case, then, 911 was already sending firefighters when Pagan and her neighbors were calling 911.

According to officials at the Allegheny County 911 Emergency Operations Center, 90 percent of 911 calls get answered in less than 10 seconds and added that if you get the recording, never hang up. You will only be on hold for moments.

Officials said the house that caught fire was destroyed, with visible damage done to the attic.