Gallatin Valley population growth leads to increased 911 calls

BOZEMAN – More calls went to 911 and the Gallatin County dispatcher answered those calls. An influx of new population and more tourism means more calls are coming in, sometimes on purpose or even by accident.

“We wanted the community to see what we do and what accomplishments we’ve had and how good stewards of taxpayers’ money we are,” said Gallatin County 911 Manager Tim Martindale.

The Gallatin County Dispatch released its 2021 annual report. The report shows a steady increase in 911 calls.

“Looking back, the big jump happened between 2018 and 2021,” says Martindale.

During these 4 years, calls have increased by approximately 20%, and non-emergency calls constitute the bulk of calls made to the dispatcher.

In 2018, the number of 911 calls was just over 108,000, the number increased to over 121,000 in 2019. Non-emergency calls hovered around 124,000 in 2020 and 2021.

“We saw just over 4,000 calls growing,” says Martindale.

Emergency calls closely followed the same trend. In 2018, around 24,000 were shipped. In 2019, emergency calls rose to around 31,000; it remained about the same in 2020. Rebounding to around 35,000 in 2021

Martindale says the increase was mainly due to population growth, with tourism playing a small role.

“We get a lot of calls from visitors,” says Martindale.

He says those calls we see during the winter months come from those who do winter sports.

“We’re seeing more snowmobile accidents, more ski accidents, that sort of thing outdoors,” Martindale says.

Martindale says most people want to call dispatch, but he says smartwatches or even pocket calls are also common.

As the population increases, the need for dispatchers has also increased. Andrew Greer has been with Gallatin Dispatch for just under a year.

“It kind of gives you a sense of the world,” Greer says.

He describes his experience helping people when they call.

“You kind of see if you would have made those choices, oh I would have had to deal with that,” Greer says.

As they look forward to another busy year.

“It’s been a big letdown on the quality of staff we have here,” Martindale says.