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Task force members express concern about hold time for 911 callers

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 by Austin Monitor

According to officials with the Austin Police Department, 95 percent of calls to the city’s 911 call center in the past 13 months have been answered by an operator, with 5 percent of callers dropping off the line before connecting with a person in the call center.


On Monday, members of the Public Safety Task Force got a chance to hear the report and ask questions. According to the report, most of those callers that drop off do so within five seconds, which is considered to be an indicator that they had accidentally dialed 911. Of the calls that were answered, 97 percent were answered in under 10 seconds. Just over 18,000 calls were answered after a period of 21 seconds.


Although only about 2 percent of callers who stayed on the line had to wait more than 21 seconds, task force members were concerned about that number. “For 18,000 people to be calling…I’m sure not all of them are in dire emergency straights, but to them they are,” said Council Member Mike Martinez. “To have them be placed on hold longer than 21 seconds…I hope that we can continue doing everything we can to reduce that number significantly.”


Task force member Mike Levy said some of the response time data could be misleading. Since callers are frequently passed along to other operators, Levy said, that time should be factored in to the response time. “For EMS, right now, we’re looking at the response time from the time the EMS call-taker picks up the phone. In fact, the response time, to be accurate, should be from the time that phone first rings in the call center,” he said. “That’s a response time measure that I think would be more appropriate.”


The task force requested additional information from APD representatives, including whether there is an industry standard for measuring response time.

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