911 Answer Times Improve|by 8 Seconds in San Diego

     SAN DIEGO (CN) — San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Thursday that wait times for 911 dialers have been cut in half over four months, following the city’s increase of budget and staff for emergency services.
     Faulconer’s office said that from April to July of this year, wait times for 911 calls dropped from 15.38 seconds to 7.03 seconds, despite a 19 percent increase in total calls fielded by emergency responders over the same period. In July, nearly 82 percent of calls were answered within 10 seconds — a significant jump from the 67.41 percent of calls answered within 10 seconds in April.
     “This is a positive step forward, but there’s more room for improvement, so we’ll continue to make changes as needed to ensure that San Diego remains one of the nation’s safest big cities,” Faulconer said in a statement.
     The San Diego Police Department began making monthly reports available online in April, tracking wait times and the average time callers spent speaking to emergency responders.
     The department also trained sworn police officers to perform non-emergency administrative duties, such as fielding 911 calls. As of July, 82 out of 100 officers have been trained to fill in as dispatchers, according to the department’s monthly 911 report.
     Throwing money and resources at recruiting and retaining 911 dispatchers came on the heels of criticism directed at the city and police department for not meeting the national standard of answering 90 percent of 911 calls within 10 seconds.
     After years of budget cuts to public safety from 2008 through 2012, the issue came to a head this April when a 3-day-old infant died after being bitten by the family dog and the father called 911 twice, waited for 28 seconds and 34 seconds respectively, then decided to drive the baby to the hospital himself where the baby was pronounced dead, according to news station KPBS.
     At the same time funding was slashed for dispatchers, an influx of thousands of more calls needed to be fielded, with accidental calls from cellphones — so-called “butt dials” — and added phone lines contributed to the increased call capacity.
     In June, the San Diego City Council voted to give 911 dispatchers a 15 percent pay raise over the next year, with the first 5 percent raise going into effect in July and two other 5 percent raises slated for January and July 2017.
     That raise was on top of two additional raises negotiated as part of the dispatchers’ contract last fall with the Municipal Employees Association which will give 8.3 percent hikes in July 2018 and 3.3 percent hikes in July 2019. Overall, dispatchers will receive a 26.6 pay raise over the next three years.
     Most dispatchers were also given “exceptional merit bonuses” of $1,000 this past March.
     Prior to the recent approval to raise pay for dispatchers, San Diego ranked at the bottom in total compensation for police dispatchers — 17th out of 18th according to a California Agencies survey conducted last November.
     The city is also now recruiting year-round for police dispatchers, a hiring practice that was not utilized until recently, according to Faulconer’s office.

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