911 takes prisoner’s escape in stride

The 911 Center got involved in the manhunt following the escape of inmate Justin MacNeil from the Blount County Correctional Facility Saturday, but it wasn’t nearly as big a deal to them as it was to some residents anxiously awaiting the wee-hours-of-the next-morning outcome.

“It increased our call volume a little above normal, but not to any great extent,” said 911 Center director Caleb Branch.“The people we had routinely scheduled were able to handle the volume with no problem.”

Branch said the center received nine calls reporting a sighting of the escapee or someone meeting his description. In addition, it received about a half-dozen calls from residents asking for information on the pursuit or if the escapee had been apprehended, he added.

Branch said that from his standpoint, the most significant result was that 427 more people signed up for Nixle – the county public information notification system – as a result of the incident.“Normally, only two or three new subscribers a day would sign up for the service,” he said.

“I’d like to encourage people to sign up for Nixle. It’s a great community resource to notify people of important news developments in the county. That will help save 911 from being hit with calls from people just asking for information. That’s what Nixle is designed to do –to keep people informed– while we need to keep 911 free and at full capacity to handle true emergency calls,” he said.

You can sign up for Nixle by texting your zip code from your mobile device to 888-777, or go to Nixle.com and follow the sign-up prompt.

Nixle is a notification system provided for the safety and convenience of Blount County residents through a partnership of county agencies including the Blount County Commission, Blount County Emergency Management Agency, Blount County District Attorney, and Blount County Sheriff’s Department.