DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Today the Dallas City Council is learning what officials have been doing to fix the city’s troubled 911 call center. The Council is being briefed on the center’s most recent performance and the steps currently being taken to improve its efficiency.
The current goal is to answer 90 percent of all Dallas emergency calls within just 10 seconds. The call center has fallen short of that goal several times in recent months. According to data through March 31, the average wait time this fiscal year has been 22 seconds. That number was at 44 seconds in February, and peaked last month with an average of 57 seconds per call.
Two families said that the delays contributed to the deaths of their loved ones.
According to the presentation being given on Wednesday, the city has been averaging just 9 seconds over the last 30 days.
Officials still blame the call center’s system spikes on T-Mobile. The company determined that abandoned calls were not made by the identified caller. T-Mobile has since updated its network, and AT&T has increased the city’s capacity and connections to shorten call time.
No abnormal call spikes have been detected since these changes were made.
Dallas Police Department Interim Police Chief David Pughes said the call center problems have exposed a bigger issue — lack of staffing. In just a one-year period the City of Dallas lost 40-percent of its 911 call takers. There are currently 39 police officers filling in on the job.
When Mayor Mike Rawlings asked why it’s taken so long Puches said, “When I looked back over the years to where we were at with our staffing versus attrition, I attribute it to a lack of aggressiveness on the part of the police department to actually go out there and hire.”
The city continues to work on improving the 911 call center’s performance through increased staffing. There was a job fair recently to recruit more call takers. The city also streamlined its hiring procedures, shortening the background check process and the time to reapply.
Employee numbers had been steadily declining since October, but there are now hundreds of new applicants.
Plus, the city is upgrading the center to digital technology. The first phase of those improvements should be complete this fall.