We haven’t been shy over the years in urging leaders to get the facts on how long dispatching takes from the time a 9-1-1 call is answered to the time your fire department is alerted. (Scroll down for NFPA Standard Info)
There are many reasons that call processing takes way, way too long-and most are unacceptable. From irrelevant questions being asked prior to dispatch to poor staffing to poor dispatcher/call taker training (initial and on-going) to CAD systems not designed to process fire & EMS to equipment and software issues/capabilities …and much more.
For example, in one major metropolitan suburban area (over 1 million pop)… a citizen dials 9-1-1…it goes to the county police…if it’s a fire, the caller is transferred to the county fire-rescue dispatch center…unfortunately that dispatch center only dispatches for about 50% of the FD’s in that area…so that caller is then transferred to the specific local fire dept…where the person on duty then processes the call and dispatches it. While local culture and politics dictate that system, the person having the emergency may actually have to speak with up to 3 people before the call gets handled and dispatched. That is hardly what’s best for the person having the emergency.
HERE is a story from Cincinnati about a software system that has created a situation where 9-1-1 calls aren’t even being answered.
Fire Chiefs are urged to genuinely know the facts when it comes to your departments fire and EMS call processing and dispatch times. We have found one of the most effective ways to determine those facts is to review the audio tapes and follow the minutes and seconds. Unfortunately CAD printout may not reflect accurate call processing times. Don’t wait until “that” incident happens to find out the facts. Regular quality control benefits the public, the FD/EMS and the dispatch center.
The NFPA 1221 standard, which sets two benchmark times with specific compliance criteria for call handling:
90% of all emergency calls must be processed within 64 seconds or less (from the time a 9-1-1 call is answered until you are alerted) and 95% of all emergency calls must be processed within 106 seconds or less.
While the NFPA standard is important, what’s really important is why it exists: How long you would like your 9-1-1 call to take when your family needs emergency help? That’s The Standard.