Consolidation improves emergency operations

Pasco County’s 911 call center is making strides in improving its operations, according to an annual report of its activities.

For the past two years, the Public Safety Communications department has been in transition as the county and Pasco County Sheriff’s office consolidated emergency response operations.

The Dade City Police Department also recently merged its 911 center with the county.

The Public Safety Communications division is a busy place.

In 2014-2015, it answered more than 525,000 calls.

Of those, more than 210,000 were 911 calls, and nearly 38,000 were classified as high priority.

Police vehicle

Of more than 252,000 dispatched calls, most went to the Pasco Sheriff’s Office and Pasco Fire Rescue, the report shows.

There were about 15,000 dropped, or abandoned, calls.

That’s a significant number, according to Randy TeBeest, assistant county administrator for public safety and administration.

But, it’s an improvement.

In a single year, the center has reduced the number of abandoned calls from 10 percent to 7 percent, the report found.

“Abandoned calls are a national problem,” TeBeest said, and they happen for a variety of reasons.

Children sometimes dial 911 by mistake. Prank calls are made. In the age of the cellphone, pocket dialing happens. And at accident scenes, people who start to call 911 realize other people also are dialing and, TeBeest said, they drop their calls.

A benefit of consolidation is a 55 percent reduction in call transfers from one department or agency to another. That has helped cut down on the time a caller has to wait and also on the potential for dropped calls.

Emergency dispatch times have improved by 30 percent, the report found. National standards require 90 percent of emergency calls be answered in 10 seconds during the busiest hour with the greatest call volume.

The standard also requires 95 percent of all emergency calls to be answered within 20 seconds. There was a significant decline in answering times for the sheriff’s office in the summer of 2014, but TeBeest said, “At all times, we were above industry standards.”

Most recently, call takers answered about 99 percent of calls for assistance from the sheriff’s office within the standard recommended time.

One of the biggest challenges for the center is staffing turnover due to the intensity of the job. The center currently has 13 vacancies.

But, TeBeest said the center expects to be close to fully staffed soon.

The county authorized eight new hires and, in total, there are 11 new employees in training, he said.

The emergency response operations will deploy a new radio system in the coming year to enhance communication among agencies. A new phone system also is being installed to thwart potential cyber attacks.

Published November 11, 2015

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