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Councilors Wonder Why 911 Hold Times Are Rising In Tulsa

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Since January of 2014, Tulsans being put on hold at the 911 center has gotten worse. Since January of 2014, Tulsans being put on hold at the 911 center has gotten worse.
The national standard is 90 percent of calls should be answered within 10 seconds. Tulsa is below the mark. The national standard is 90 percent of calls should be answered within 10 seconds. Tulsa is below the mark.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

City councilors want to know why so many Tulsans are put on hold when they call 911. The Director of the call center said technology challenges, staffing shortages and budget issues contribute to slow response times.

She said operators are getting more calls, and she admits hold times have increased. One solution, she said, would be an automated voice service instead of having a person answer calls.

Since January of 2014, Tulsans being put on hold at the 911 center has gotten worse.

“A little over 87 percent of calls to 911 were answered within 10 seconds, in June that number was down to 74 percent," said City Manager Jim Twombly.

The national standard is 90 percent of calls should be answered within 10 seconds. Tulsa is below the mark and city councilors want to why.

The city manager and 911 dispatch director, Terry O’Malley, said they will be proactive to reduce hold times. They plan on starting with the staff.

"Testing recruits before we ever spend any money on them to make sure they are a better fit,” Twombly said.

He said each recruit costs $25,000 to $30,000 to train just in the first six months. He said the 911 call center has only a 20 percent retention rate so they are short staffed.

O'Malley said an automated service will help.

"Press or say one for fire, press or say two for medical and press or say three for police," O’Malley said.

That idea is something that councilor Skip Steele wasn't comfortable with.

“I really believe that having a person on the other end of the line is important. When I call or you call, I’m not calling to have a discussion, I’m calling because I need help," said Steele.

Automated help may not be personal but it is faster.

"I think that we can save 15 to 30 seconds off the front end by not having that front end, and I’m going to save nine people that I can put in on call taking."

Counselors said they are open to suggestions and the 911 dispatch office is going to do a public awareness campaign to try and reduce unnecessary calls.

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