More than 5K callers wait longer than 40 seconds for 911 dispatch to answer

Delays in answer time spike in summer months, peak at 7 a.m.
More than 5K callers wait longer than 40 seconds for 911 dispatch to answer

Emergency callers to the Dane County 911 Center waited for more than 40 seconds for an operator to answer the phone a total of 5,476 times last year. That’s an average of roughly 15 times per day.

Data from 2013 released to News 3 (Excel spreadsheet) from the 911 center showed 641 calls taking longer than a minute and a half to answer, and 218 calls took longer than two minutes to answer.

“It would have been good in 2013 to know we were going down that road,” said Maple Bluff Fire Chief Josh Ripp, who oversees the 911 Center Board. He said he had not been given those numbers as chair of the board.

The 911 center is not close to meeting the national standard of answering 90 percent of all 911 calls within 10 seconds or less during the busiest hour of the busiest day. News 3 reports on extended wait times, including some nearly six minutes long in the first few months of 2014, led Dane County Executive Joe Parisi to recommend immediate changes to procedures for 911 operators.

“It’s bad and I don’t want to discount (the numbers) at all,” Ripp said. “But what’s in the past is in the past. We’ve made changes and we’re moving forward into the future in trying to make this better.”

The data showed answer-time delays spiked in the summer months of 2013 (May-September). In June of 2013 it took operators 40 seconds or longer to answer 1,776 calls. The longest wait times in 2013 were in August, with one call taking more than five minutes to be answered, and another taking more than four minutes.

Answer-time delays were common throughout the day, but peaked at 7 a.m. with 410 calls ringing longer than 40 seconds before being answered and 425 calls ringing for longer than 40 seconds in the 8 p.m. hour.

“We’ll have to look into that a little more,” Ripp said. “Look at staffing models and how the employees shift around. How shift changes are done. (Fixing the problem) could be something as simple as that.”