OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma City woman is scared and frustrated, saying she called 911 five times and couldn’t get a hold of a dispatcher. 

KFOR is now asking the Oklahoma City Police Department what’s going on? They tell us their 911 call center is “significantly understaffed” by about 20 percent.

“It was inconceivable to me that they weren’t answering,” said Christina Bailey. “What if I was being murdered or somebody was dying?”

Bailey found herself upset with Oklahoma City 911 on Monday afternoon.

At about 4 p.m., she was driving on S. Classen Blvd. under a bridge near Reno Ave. when she said she spotted a man picking up traffic cones and tossing them around.

“The gentleman was throwing the cones in all different directions,” she said. “So, cars were slamming on their brakes and trying to figure out where to go and he was headed toward the utility workers, and they were kind of backing up and putting their hands up. They looked scared.”

Bailey pulled over immediately to call 911.

“It went to a recording, and it said, ‘all of our agents, all of the calls are busy right now, please stay on the line,'” she explained.

She said she hung up and tried calling four more times, flustered to get the same recording.

“It just didn’t seem possible that nobody was picking up the phone.”

A dispatcher would call her back, telling her they’d send someone out to the scene, but Bailey said she felt let down.

“I was scared, first of all, because nobody was there to help me,” she expressed. “This wasn’t life or death, but these people were in danger and could have been hurt and people driving could have been hurt.”

KFOR asked Oklahoma City PD about the situation. 

MSgt. Gary Knight said they have a staffing shortage at their 911 call center, with only 71 dispatchers when they’re budgeted for 88.

“It’s a significant shortage,” he explained. “It’s enough that we have mandatory overtime for a lot of the employees. There are even overtime programs for police officers to go over there and man those phones and try to get some of the calls off the board so that people are getting their calls answered in a timely manner. So, we’re doing everything we can to address the shortage.”

He said they are also making a great effort to recruit more dispatchers through hiring.

Knight said unfortunately they sometimes just get more calls than they can handle.

“If there’s a severe car crash or major car crash on the highway or on an interstate or at an intersection here in the city, there may be 10, 15 call takers at 911, but you may have 40 people calling 911 at the same time,” he said. “So, it’s easy, in that instance, for the phone lines to become overwhelmed and people be put on hold for a few minutes. Our crews do everything they can to get to every caller in a timely manner, but it’s not always possible.”

To help keep lines open, police ask the public to please only call 911 for true emergencies.