Water Outage: City Receives 24K Comments, 12K Calls During Emergency

In 72 hours, Dayton, Ohio’s water dispatch center received 8,958 calls, or about 20 times the number it receives in a typical week at this time of year.

by Cornelius Frolik, Dayton Daily News, Ohio / March 6, 2019

(TNS) — The city of Dayton, Ohio received more than 12,000 phone calls during its nearly catastrophic water main break emergency that happened Feb. 13-15.

The cause of the break still isn’t known, since city crews still haven’t been able to inspect the line because of high river levels.

The city said it has been monitoring the river daily and would evaluate again Monday.

Though it wasn’t an especially long emergency, it was an intense time in Dayton.

In 72 hours, Dayton’s water dispatch center received 8,958 calls, or about 20 times the number it receives in a typical week at this time of year. Dispatch handled 393 calls in the last week of January and 463 in the first week of February.

“When this happened, our call centers were completely overwhelmed with phone calls,” said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.

Montgomery County, which gets its water from Dayton, also was flooded with calls.

Between 4:30 p.m. Feb. 13 and 6 a.m. Feb. 16, the county’s environmental services dispatch center, customer service call center and EOC center received 3,255 calls.

The call center and dispatch typically handle 300 to 360 calls per day.

The city used its tech vendor ZenCity to gather real-time information from social media posts while the call centers were swamped with calls, Dickstein said.

“At one point in time, we had 1,000 calls in the queue,” she said.

ZenCity helped the city figure out whether the information it was sharing about the water event was helpful and well received and allowed the city to adjust its messaging to satisfy customers and citizens, Dickstein said.

“We had 24,000 comments that were made during the event … that were culminated in a report by ZenCity,” Dickstein said.

About 86 percent of comments were positive or neutral, compared to 14 percent that were negative, she said.

The crisis led to a large response by city staff. About 87 city employees worked to manage the crisis.

During the event, Montgomery County field crews and engineering staff worked more than 500 combined hours assisting the city in locating the main break and then pressurizing and restoring water service, said Brianna Wooten, county spokeswoman.

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©2019 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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