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Fireworks calls jam Douglas County 911 Thursday night

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OMAHA, Ne (FOX42KPTM) - As fireworks lit up the Omaha area Thursday night, the phones inside emergency centers were also getting lit up.

"It's frustrating," said Bill Muldoon, Sarpy County's 911 director.

In Sarpy County alone, dispatchers received more than 200 calls related to fireworks complaints. That was just in a span of two and a half hours between 8:00 and 10:30.

"Which cripples it for other real emergencies such as somebody reporting a fire, heart attack or felony in progress."

In Douglas County, the number of calls was even higher. There were 434 calls in just a few hours Thursday night. That's more than twice as many as this time last year. The director says that surge caused some people calling with a cell phone to get a busy signal. Sarpy's 911 director, Muldoon, understands why.

"We're not really set up for a large volume of people calling at once."

If you have a fireworks complaint, emergency directors are now urging that you call your county's non-emergency phone number. They say it's not like they have dozens of dispatchers working night and overnight shifts.

"The majority of the time we can answer a call within seconds, within the first couple of rings, but then you have your outliers. I would characterize last night as one of those outliers."

Muldoon says you shouldn't liken 911 centers to hotel reservation centers. He says those could have dozens of staffers working at a time. At an emergency center, there will only be a few.

"You're number 99. You'll have to wait for us to get through."

Douglas County's 911 director says the mobile phone issue Thursday night lasted about one hour. He says it has since been resolved.

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