DM detonations reveal more 911 problems

Posted: Updated:

TUCSON, Ariz. -- It was a late night scare after a long day on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Without much warning to the public, DM began a series of explosions Friday night blowing up hazardous materials not long after the 6 hour lockdown.

Many people turned to 911 for help.

The flood of emergency calls exposed more problems with the city's troubled 911 system.

"To me it sounded like mortar fire," said John Passarella.

John Passarella, 67, hadn't heard sounds like that since Vietnam.  But he heard it again Friday night in his eastside neighborhood.

"Scared the heck out of everybody," said Passarella.

Davis-Monthan blew up hazardous materials that night.

Hi, This is... with Davis Monthan Air Forece Base. 
Just want to let you know we're going to have some emergency detonations tonight. 
Oh, you haven't had enough tonight?

The first warning came just half an hour before explosions rocked Tucsonans awake.

"I jumped up and I felt a rumble in the house," said Passarella.

The DM caller goes on to say:

OK, well hoepfully you all won't get shut down with so many phone calls tonight. I know it happened many years ago.

Well, something similar happened again.  According to TFD, 911 operators received 269 calls about the explosions, callers had no idea what was going on.

"Extraoridnarily bad.  It was just wrong," said Passarella.

A warning.  Thats all Rita Ranch residents wanted form Davis-Monthan.  They didnt' get that.  And when they reached out to 911 they got a busy signal.

Not once or twice.

"I tried three times.  My neighbor tried 5," said Passarella.

Passarella says he never got through.

"What would have happened that night if someone had a heart attack or needed an ambulance,"  said Passarella.

Councilman Steve Kozachik points to this as further evidence that the new 911 system still has kinks to be worked out.

TFD hopes a new customer service line, where callers can report problems with the system will help.

"It doesnt fix the problem though," said Kozachik.

Passarrella isn't sold on the idea either, but hopes he won't hear a busy signal again.

Councilman Steve Kozachik says to cut back on busy signals the city needs to focus on drastically improving staffing levels at the 911 call center.