City credits improved operations to shorter 911 wait times

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — If you call San Diego’s emergency 911 system, someone will be answering your call more quickly.

That’s according to the latest figures released by the city of San Diego on 911 wait times.

The City of San Diego has reached a new low, but that’s good news in this case.

According to the police department, the average wait time to the 911 system dropped from just over 15 seconds back in April, to seven seconds last month.

A fire, a gas leak, a car crash or a violent crime. If there’s trouble, San Diegans reach for help through the 911 system.

But city leaders have freely acknowledged there was room for improvement.

Until recently, callers who used the 911 system had to suffer through long wait times, with sometimes frustration and even devastating consequences.

In April, the parents of a 3-day-old infant, who was mauled to death by the family dog, said they called 911 numerous times and no one answered.

And in a recent Turko File, Turko talked to a man in Allied Gardens whose wife tried to call 911 when their neighbor’s garage went up in flames in march. No one got the line for seven minutes.

"Now, this is after everybody’s out and they should have been here, cause we know the response time and I looked at my wife and said, ‘What’s going on?’ and she said nobody picked up," said Jeff Deibert of Allied Gardens.

Facing a growing litany of complaints, the mayor, city council and the police department set out to make changes.

The city said those efforts have been fruitful.

Wait times are down in just three months.

The average 911 wait time in April was 15.38 seconds. In my, 9.95 and in June, it was down to 8.92 and in the last month, just over 7 seconds.

Calls are processed more quickly now. One improvement- the addition of a special automated line so dispatchers aren’t tied up with requests for non-emergency numbers.

The city is also hiring more dispatchers and rewarding them with better pay. In the new city budget, policy dispatchers are slated to get a 15 percent pay hike, a move to boost morale and staff retention.

As for nuisance calls to the system, that’s a problem that’s largely caused by the public.

The police department said cell phone users need to lock their phones to avoid the infamous, "butt dial."

It’s a bigger problem than you might imagine. The department recently documented the number of misdials over a five-month period, which was a whopping 2,400 calls a month.

Here’s another statistic, a more critical one. In July, 81 percent of the 911 calls were answered within 10 seconds, back in April, that number was a meager 61 percent.

Answering 90 percent of calls within 10 seconds is considered the national standard.

Categories: Local San Diego News