Memphis annexation has some wondering who is answering their calls for help

Desperate callers pleaded with 911 operators to get an ambulance to the Billiards Club on July 9th. But as dispatchers argued over jurisdiction, time slipped away. At the 911 District Headquarters, administrative work is done and plans are put into place so that calls from every address will be sent to the correct agency. With all the recent annexations that's a tough job, but one we're told is getting done.

Charles Hester lives in Countrywood and became a Memphian earlier this year when his area was annexed. So far he doesn't notice a big difference. "We haven't accumulated anything but policemen giving us tickets out here." There is one thing recently that's been bothering Hester about annexation. If a 911 call for help is made from his home, will help know where to go? Hester added, "It scares me because in this new area are we even on the map with them? Do they even realize we're with the city now?" In one word, yes.

According to 911 Director Raymond Chiozza, his office works with agencies to make sure records are updated and the initial call for help goes to the right place. Chiozza said, "We work with Bellsouth's database to insure that phone and geographic location will be routed to the correct dispatch center at the correct municipality." Chiozza uses updated maps provided by planning and zoning to get the job done. Once the 911 call gets sent to the correct agency, Chiozza has no control over dispatchers or whether crews are sent to the correct address. That becomes the responsibility of police, fire and emergency crews. "Hopefully it's not many more deaths before they they've fully perfected it."

Perfection is what 911 workers say they strive for and why they're looking at how the system is run and set up. Part of that review is plans for a new unified 911 emergency center where county and city dispatchers would work out of the same building. That plan however is four years away.

Who answers your call depends on where you live. If you live within the city of Memphis and dial 911, your call goes to Memphis Police Department first, and is then routed to the appropriate agency. If you live in one of the suburban cities, your 911 call goes to your local police department, and that call is routed depending on the nature of your call. For people in unincorporated sections of the county, your 911 call goes directly to the Shelby County Sheriff's Department and is then routed.