KCTV5 investigates 911 hold times in Kansas City - KCTV5 News

KCTV5 investigates 911 hold times in Kansas City

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KCTV5 News investigated 911 hold times after multiple viewers complained they called for help and got a message instead of a live person. (KCTV5) KCTV5 News investigated 911 hold times after multiple viewers complained they called for help and got a message instead of a live person. (KCTV5)

KCTV5 News investigated 911 hold times after multiple viewers complained they called for help and got a message instead of a live person.

That message tells callers to stay on the line and the next available operator will help them.

An open records request reveals that more than 99 percent of 911 calls in 2015 went to automated messages before people were connected to a live call taker.

"You expect help, not a recording," Kristen Hocker said. 

Hocker called 911 when her 7-year-old son fell and hit his head. It turns out her son had a concussion. She says she drove him to the hospital herself after waiting on the line for a call taker and then got disconnected.

“It is your kid. It's your baby. You want help right now, that's what you hope for when you call 911," Hocker said.

KCTV5 also heard from the Grimes family. They witnessed a car accident outside a Waldo ice cream shop and were stunned when they couldn’t get through.

"It was a Sunday evening. I think it was around 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m., so you know you wouldn't think it would be that busy to answer 911," Kristi Grimes said.

The Mid-America Regional Council manages 911 call centers for Kansas City and other communities in our area.

"The National Emergency Association goal is 90 percent of your calls should be answered within 10 seconds," said Keith Faddis, public safety program director for MARC.

KCTV5 made an open records request to investigate how Kansas City compares to that nationwide goal of 10 seconds. In 2015, callers waited an average of 14 seconds for help. But in September, the average wait was 21 seconds. Data shows on Sept. 1, that wait was 37 seconds. And on that day, someone calling for help waited eight minutes and 30 seconds.             


Overloaded system

More than a million phone calls were made to Kansas City 911 dispatch. The 2015 Kansas City Police Department annual report shows about half were true emergencies, but more than 460,000 were non-emergency calls. (The non-emergency phone number is 816-234-5111.)

Many could have called administrative lines, and sometimes, it's people complaining. They should call the city's 311 help number not 911.

Call takers hear about missed trash pick-ups, and many people call in during storms to report power outages. Those calls need to go to KCP&L.

More than 200,000 calls were misdials and hang ups in 2015.

”Some phones are designed if you hit a button and hold it, it will dial 911. So if you are sitting on your phone, you may accidentally dial 911 and you don't know that you've done it,” Faddis said.

Faddis also points out that 911 is close to the area code 913. Some misdials are simply people not paying attention as they dial and calls get made to 911.

There is also the additional problem of parents upgrading cell phones and passing along old phones to toddlers and young children. Even if a phone is deactivated, it can still call 911.

Faddis says call centers in the area and across the nation have difficulty staffing the appropriate number of people at the right time. There are peaks and valleys for call volume.

A car crash on the interstate can instantly overwhelm dispatch because dozens of drivers call in to report the same accident. The same holds true with fires in the downtown area.

The majority of 911 calls now come from cell phones not landlines.

Call centers report it is extremely helpful if callers give locations first, then tell what has happened. It may be natural instinct for people to say what happened and who was involved and then get to the where. But call takers and dispatchers say they are more efficient and can get you help quicker if you say exact location first and then give details.

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