Dallas Reports Improvements With 911 Call Wait Times

Officials win praise for improvements

New figures from the Dallas 911 call center show tremendous improvement answering calls after deaths connected to emergency call delays early this year.

The average wait time was just two seconds in September, compared with the average of 22 seconds between October 2016 and March 2017 when hold times were often much longer than the average.

The Dallas goal is to answer 911 calls with 10 seconds 90 percent of the time.

Dallas City Council members praised the improvement at a briefing on the 911 system Wednesday.

"It's very clear that we get what we pay for," Councilman Dwaine Caraway said. "In the new technology, the new wave, the new approach, things are getting a lot better."

Two people died in March of medical complications as 911 callers waited on hold.

Technical problems were blamed for an extra flood of 911 calls at the time. But a common problem in dealing with high call volume this year and in years past was too few call takers.

The city launched a hiring push to add call takers and transferred police officers for immediate help.

"As a temporary stop gap it was absolutely necessary to bring police officers down to fill those gaps in the communications center," said Dallas Assistant Police Chief David Pughes.

Of the 39 officers transferred to 911 call-taking duty earlier this year, 22 are still there but should be replaced by additional civilian call takers by December.

Nearly $10 million worth of new technology is being added, including Next Generation 911 equipment that will allow texting to 911, which some surrounding cities already have. New software should begin operating on Dec. 5.

"We anticipate anywhere from 60 to 90 days, texting will be available after that," said Chief Information Officer William Finch.

Despite all the improvements, there are still concerns.

Councilman Keven Felder said he called 911 himself over the weekend to report gunfire in his neighborhood but received no police visit and no call back.

"If I'm not getting a visit, that means other people in my neighborhood are not getting a visit," Felder said.

Police officials said they would look into that situation.

"Years ago we had this same report. Then time was up. We made some adjustments and we got back to the same place," Councilwoman Jennifer Gates said.

Assistant Chief Pughes said better improvement has been made this time.

"I feel assured that given our current staffing and the communications equipment that we're putting in, that we will not experience those problems again," he said.

Furthermore, Pughes said improvement is being made in the environment at the call center where call takers feel more comfortable raising concerns and coming to work in the stressful occupation.

"Call takers are an extremely important position in the City of Dallas, and we want them to feel like they are important and will be listened to," Councilman Philip Kingston said.

This year's 911 crisis was the first major challenge for new City Manager T.C. Broadnax who started in February.

Councilman Scott Griggs, a frequent critic of the prior administration, said the 911 upgrades are indicative of other improvement he sees at Dallas City Hall.

"I'm very pleased with the changes that T.C. has brought," Griggs said. "And we're starting to see changes at the director level and below in various department that for a long time have needed change."

Contact Us