FIRST ON 3 UPDATE: County doubts new equipment led to problem with 911 calls during fire
COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A family from Columbus County lost their home along with all of their possessions last week in a house fire. As you saw FIRST ON 3 this weekend, Brian and Amy Smith say they repeatedly called 911 during the fire, but could not get in touch with an operator. Now Columbus County Emergency Management says it is investigating what happened.
“We’re in the process of investigating that,” Columbus County Emergency Services Director Jeremy Jernigan said. “We’ve been trying to make contact with all the folks that called and follow up. This is really important for us to determine what happened so we can prevent it from ever happening again.”
Fire destroyed the Smith family’s home Wednesday. They say they were lucky to get out safely.
When the couple got out, they repeatedly called 911. They say all they heard on the line were automated error messages. Neighbors called and had a similar issue.
Columbus County Emergency Services say it has never encountered a problem like this before and it is working hard to figure out what happened. The 911 Center just started using new equipment last week, but Jernigan says that probably was not the issue.
“At this point in time I wouldn’t say that there’s a problem with our equipment or that there is a problem with equipment,” he said. “We are going to do our investigation and let that determine it.”
The Smiths family hopes that this investigation will help the county to avoid anything like this in the future, but they are still upset saying for them it’s just too little too late.
“I am frustrated, disappointed,” Amy Smith said. “I mean it shouldn’t take all of this to get the ball rolling, but sometimes it does take things like this. At least they are checking into it now, but it’s still a little to late.”
Amidst all the heartache, Amy gave birth to a little boy just two days after the fire. The Smiths say his health is the most important thing at this point, and that possibly suing the county is on the back burner.
“I hope it don’t come to that, but you can’t ever tell,” Brian Smith said. “I mean I’d love to have my house back, but that’s out of the question, so the question is what’s next.”
The Smiths still do not know how much money they will receive from their insurance company. The Pleasant Plains Baptist Church is collecting donations.
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