ABC7 Exclusive: Deluge of 911 calls after Long Grove explosion

In an ABC7 Eyewitness News exclusive, the lessons learned after 911 operators took 1,200 calls when a northwest suburban house exploded and dozens of other homes were damaged. (WLS)
May 13, 2014 8:24:18 PM PDT
Officials say they received more than 1,200 emergency 911 calls the night a northwest suburban Long Grove house exploded and dozens of other homes were damaged.

Calls came from as far away as Arlington Heights and Glencoe, 10-15 miles away. It could have been information overload if not for some clear-thinking operators with the Lake County Sheriff's Department.

The avalanche of calls began moments after the blast.

    Operator: 911?
    Caller: Um. Okay. Our house burned up. Something happened. It exploded.
    Operator: And your house is on fire?
    Caller: Yes. Please come fast. Please.

A home on Trenton Court had exploded, damaging more than 50 nearby houses.

    Caller: It has taken door frames. The house is in half a shambles.
    Operator: Is anybody injured there?
    Caller: No. We're not injured. We're just scared to death.

Emergency 911 operators had to sort through a mountain of misinformation. The blast was so loud that many callers miles away thought it had happened nearby.

    Operator: We are already on the way to an area of Trenton Court in Long Grove. Thank you for calling.
    Caller: So whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, that was not just in my home? That was somewhere else?
    Operator: No.

"Trying to sort through all that information with reports of explosions in various locations and getting and pinpointing and making sure there wasn't another incident," said Chief Jeff Steingart, Countryside Fire Protection District.

Some callers reported an earthquake, fireworks, even criminal activity.

    Caller: Well. They're afraid that a lock on the front of the house, looks like someone tried to pry in. We heard, we heard a, yeah just get out here.

Some were calling just to get information.

    Caller: Hi, this is not an emergency. I live in the Vernon Hills area. We just heard a really loud...
    Operator: Yeah, there was a natural gas explosion in Long Grove.

"There's lots of other places to turn for that information when it comes available, obviously local media, social media now," Steingart said.

Remarkably, no one was seriously injured, including a resident of the home that exploded who left moments before the blast. The exact cause is still undetermined. Investigators this week say they're doing testing on the gas main and lines.

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