Dallas mayor calls slow 911 response 'unacceptable'

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on September 13, 2012 at 11:09 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 14 at 2:33 PM

DALLAS - Mayor Mike Rawlings says what happened to a Dallas woman calling 911 Sunday was "unacceptable." It took more than two minutes and 30 seconds for her call to connect from another jurisdiction's 911 center.

The call arrived at the Southwest Regional Communications Center in DeSoto at 12:50 a.m. Sunday. As soon as the caller said her address, which was in the Dallas, the operator began to try to transfer the call to the City of Dallas.

"Standby while I transfer you over to Dallas," the operator told the woman. "Don't hang up."

That was followed by several rings with no answer.

Enough time passed for the operator to say, "Come on Dallas, answer the phone!" Several seconds later he said, "Stay on the line ma'am. Dallas won't pick up. They'll answer eventually."

"Okay," the caller said, through tears.

Eventually a recorded message did pick up, telling the operator and the caller that all 911 operators were answering other calls.

"Do not hang up," the message stated.

That was followed by 24 seconds of something that sounded like a fax machine, several more rings, and then the automated message repeated itself.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings had not heard the call until News 8 played it for him.

We asked if a call that took two minutes and 34 seconds to reach his city's 911 center proved the center had a problem.

"We had a problem with this lady," he replied.

Rawlings said the timing of the call was one reason for the problem.

"It is in the busiest time of the week -- the busiest night," Rawlings said. "So, knowing how many calls are coming in at that time, it's understandable why it's long. It's not acceptable, but it's understandable."

Rawlings said the goal is to answer each 911 call within 10 seconds.

"I know our numbers show the average call is picked up in 4.6 seconds," he said. "We make our goal 80 percent of the time. But for those [calls] that don't meet that goal, we're changing things in a significant manner to make that happen."

Rawlings said Dallas police have put new leadership in the 911 center. The city is also spending $2 million to hire more employees and upgrade equipment there.

By the time the Dallas 911 center did answer the woman's call, she had already hung up. But DPD says it was the second call they took from that location. The first, they say, came in at 12:39 a.m. and was answered within two rings. They immediately dispatched help, which, they say, arrived at her complex by 12:53 a.m.

"I want excellence every moment," Rawlings said. "When we are short on excellence, it's not acceptable. We've got to do better. We've got to do better."

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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