Short staffing and longer answer times are plaguing D.C.’s 911 call center, according to newly released data from the Office of Unified Communications — highlighting the struggles of the agency.
Of 180 employees to pull from, the 911 operations aim to have 44 employees for day shifts and 37 employees for night shifts, according to a statement. New data shows that around a third of shifts in July at the 911 call center were short staffed. In August, it was 39%.
While the majority of calls were answered in 15 seconds or less, about one in four took longer. The standard set by the National Emergency Number Association is that 90% of calls be answered in 15 seconds or less.
Numerous calls shown in the data took several minutes to be connected to a call taker.
Earlier this summer, D.C.’s council passed emergency legislation requiring the Office of Unified Communication to publish call and staffing data every month. The new dashboard also features the number of dropped calls and type of 911 misuse calls.
It also publishes dispatcher errors.
One such error was during a flooding episode at a Northeast D.C. dog day care where 10 dogs died. It took 23 minutes for rescue efforts to begin because the dispatcher had reached out to D.C. Fire, saying that there was a “water leak” at the day care, which the fire department determined was not a priority.
Office of Unified Communications director Heather McGaffin said that it was a miscommunication and the call was categorized as a “water leak” by the dispatcher because of a lack of protocol for an extreme flooding incident.
The Office of Unified Communications said in a statement that they’re addressing staffing issues by participating in job fairs, implementing a $2,500 hiring bonus, and developing a Junior Academy for the city’s high schools to highlight dispatching as a career opportunity.