According to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, the city’s Communication Center has Emergency Services Dispatchers on staff working all hours of the day, year round. On average these dispatchers answer 1,980 calls requesting law enforcement assistance every day, over 40% of which are 911-specific.
In 2015 alone, dispatchers responded to 323,951 911 calls. But as of late, San Diego residents have started questioning the Sheriff Department’s ability to react to emergency calls with the immediacy needed.
For example, on April 21, 2016 a Mira Mesa couple called the San Diego’s 911 call center twice after a dog attacked their infant son. Each time, the couple was forced to forfeit their calls after dispatchers failed to answer after 30 seconds of wait time. This delay prompted the parents to take their son to a nearby hospital where he died shortly after.
In general, the city’s 911 dispatchers are expected to answer at least 90% of all incoming calls within 30 seconds. Yet in April 2016, dispatchers only attained this goal 67% of the time.
The Mira Mesa incident alerted the public to major flaws in the city’s 911 emergency response structure. It even grabbed the attention of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. In an article published by The San Diego Union-Tribune Faulconer blamed budget cuts for 911 call delays, stating “The city’s pension and financial crisis left a big hole from which we are still emerging. Regardless of how we got here, the longer wait times that have been reported are unacceptable.”
In an effort improve conditions for 911 dispatchers and callers alike, Faulconer has pledged to enact five new initiatives, including:
- Providing additional financial resources to not only recruit new dispatchers but sustain mid-level dispatchers through pay raise offers
- Supplying 911 dispatchers with back-up staff support to enhance efficiency
- Releasing monthly dispatch performance reports to the public
- Examining existing workflow practices to identify problems and find solutions
- Leading public education campaigns designed to teach callers how to properly and effectively use 911 call services