ORU Students Present Study On Optimizing 911 Calls

Wednesday, May 15th 2019, 9:11 pm

Tulsa has a chronic shortage of 911 operators and though they won’t be at full staff anytime soon, there’s new data on how they might optimize staffing.

The 911 center currently has 19 openings for call takers, and the shortage means sometimes callers wait to get an answer. The calls peak during heavy traffic and sometimes when important football games end and callers want the score. That has actually happened and it's one of the things showing up in the data about 9-1-1 calls.

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“The city is sitting on a treasure trove of data, whether it's record keeping, or calls into 311 or emergency dispatch,” said Dr. Curtis Ellis of Oral Roberts University

Professors Ellis and Jason Pudlo guided some students through the data and today they briefed the Tulsa City Council on what they found. They expected to find the peak times, but more analysis found that 911 is routinely understaffed, often needing two more people per shift to answer calls quickly.

The 911 center's interim director, Tulsa Police Deputy Chief Dennis Larsen, doesn't disagree with the findings and is hopeful further analysis will find more actionable information.

“We may be able to make some adjustments sometimes and make those calls flow smoother,” said Larsen.

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The professors would next like to dig deeper and use ORU's TITAN supercomputer to see if the weather forecast is also a predictor of 911 calls. They believe it could be, and might allow the City to beef up staffing based on the expectations of severe weather.

ORU is studying the 911 system for free, and it's exactly what the city hoped for by giving their data to anyone who wants to dig in.

“We'll release more information and more people will get data that might be uniquely interesting to them,” said Ben Harris, the Coordinator for the City’s Urban Data Pioneers program

As 911 adds staff, this data could help them be more strategic. The goal is to answer the calls more quickly. A future data project might look at how to convince people they should call the non-emergency number instead.

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