301.519.9237 exdirector@nesaus.org

7.7.23 – The Associated Press – ST. LOUIS (AP)

Strong storms that tore through the St. Louis area last weekend “completely overwhelmed” the region’s 911 systems, a public official said in response to complaints about long delays in fielding sometimes dire calls for help.

Officials on Wednesday expressed regret over the deaths of a woman in the city and a child in St. Louis County. They said they’re still investigating the responses, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The storms that blew into the area Saturday knocked down hundreds of trees and power lines, and left tens of thousands without power, some for days.

It was the same in St. Louis County. “The system was completely overwhelmed,” said Doug Moore, a spokesman for Democratic County Executive Sam Page.

A tree fell on 33-year-old Katherine Coen’s car near an entertainment district in St. Louis. Another fell on a home in Jennings, killing 5-year-old Robert Lawrence.

In both instances, people said they tried over and over to get help. A spokeswoman for Lawrence’s family has said it took the boy’s mother 45 minutes to get ahold of emergency services, and that her son was alive when she first started to try.

Coyle said Saturday’s storm created a unique situation due to a “regional weather catastrophe.” But he said improvements are being made to the 911 system that should help.

Coyle said new software kicks in when an operator is not immediately available and asks callers to push buttons for EMS or fire services if they need them. He said the department has also gathered about three-quarters of the money needed to build a new, more efficient dispatch center by 2026.