DALLAS (CBS11) – It’s one of the most important functions of a city: answering 911 calls quickly.
Now, months after a crisis at the city of Dallas 911 call center may have led to two deaths, leaders at City Hall and the Dallas Police Department say there have been big improvements in staffing, work environment, and how quickly calls are being answered.
After a briefing before the Dallas City Council, District 1 Councilman Scott Griggs told reporters, “I’m very pleased about all the changes.”
Griggs says he’s confident problems with the city’s 911 call center are solved and won’t be allowed to get out of control again. “Often times, we had good people in the center, but the management and oversight at the highest executive levels wasn’t there.”
He credits the new City Manager T.C. Broadnax and Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune for overseeing the changes.
In March, David Taffet said his husband Brian Cross died after they faced lengthy delays reaching 911.
Five days later, Bridget Alex claimed her six-month-old son Brandon died after his babysitter repeatedly called 911, but couldn’t get anyone to answer.
Police department records show between October of last year and March of this year, 78 percent of 911 calls were being answered in average of 22 seconds.
That’s far longer than the city’s standard of answering 90 percent of the calls within an average of ten seconds.
But by last month, 93 percent of the 911 calls were being answered in an average of two seconds.
Staffing levels have also nearly doubled from 73 employees in January to 136 last month.
Dallas police say changes made will prevent a spike in emergency calls the city experienced before with causing major problems. “Once you get behind, you’re having to call these people back because they’re hanging up due to frustration, it’s virtually impossible to catch up. So as long as you stay ahead and we have the ability to stay ahead now with the things we’ve put in place, we don’t anticipate that happening again.”
Next month, the city will implement new software that will allow them to manage staffing and efficiency at the call center.
In December, the facility will get major technology upgrades as it transitions from analog to digital.
Three months after that, the city may be able to provide residents with the ability to text 911.
The city says it has improved how the call center looks with new lighting, and a renovated kitchen and break room.
New carpeting and paint and 911 consoles will be installed in January in time for a grand reopening.
In addition, Pughes says employee morale at the call center has also improved because they are empowered to raise red flags if they see problems.
He says the new Chief, Renee Hall, wants everyone in the department to speak up. “She’s being very clear about that. That every voice on this department has a say and so I think that in and of itself, really has made a big difference down in communications where people are not afraid to talk and they’re talking.”