Why 15 seconds is too long for Anchorage police dispatch

Published: Jul. 19, 2017 at 2:35 PM AKDT
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Anchorage police dispatchers say that on average, it took 15 seconds from someone calling 9-1-1 to a dispatcher picking up in June.

That's longer than dispatchers would like.

According to officials, the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) standard is that 90 percent of the calls during the busiest wait time should be answered in 10 seconds.

"We were averaging about - I want to say - 9 to 10 seconds a couple of years ago," says Amy Foraker, manager of APD's Emergency Communications Center. "Fifteen is the highest I've seen. So that's incredibly high for one month. We had been hovering around 12 seconds, which still is higher than we want to be."

Foraker says some of the delays comes from more people calling 9-1-1 with non-emergency issues. Some delays come from the fact that more people have cell phones. And other delays come from people calling 9-1-1, then hanging up. She says dispatchers still have to call them back in order to ensure that everything is alright.

"I would say we're short-staffed, from the aspect of the call volume keeps going up," Foraker says. "We have more officers on the streets now, (but) cell phones are a lot more prevalent. So a lot more people have the ability to call."

The wait times are longer for administration calls, which can average several minutes long, because 9-1-1 calls are the priority.

Moreover, when there's a major event where police are needed - like a large car wreck - at times, dozens of people call 9-1-1 to report the same problem, says Foraker. Those multiple calls are stacked into what dispatch calls the "queue."

Calls are then answered in the order they come in. So far this year, at an average of 15 seconds per call pickup, APD has already tallied more than 215,000 phone calls to dispatch.

Currently, APD dispatch has three job positions open.