Mother questions 911 hold times after son dies in medical emerge - KCTV5

Mother questions 911 hold times after son dies in medical emergency

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Teresa Tschirhart says she was alone and scared when she found her 36-year-old son unconscious in her Kansas City home. (KCTV5) Teresa Tschirhart says she was alone and scared when she found her 36-year-old son unconscious in her Kansas City home. (KCTV5)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Teresa Tschirhart says she was alone and scared when she found her 36-year-old son unconscious in her Kansas City home.

She called 911 for help, but she didn’t get a person. She got a message informing her all call takers were busy. 

"It was nightmare. It just took so long. And they actually got a pulse when they were here, so I always wondered, you know, had they got here sooner they might have been able to save him. I'll never know," she said.

Tschirhart showed KCTV5 her personal cell phone records. Those show the first call went to 911 at 4:41 p.m. on Oct. 1, 2015. The call lasted more than a minute. Tschirhart says she was on hold the entire time.

Tschirhart hung up and called her daughter who lived just down the street. Then she called 911 again and held on the line until she got through to a person. Tschirhart says the waiting was brutal.

"When it's someone you love it's really hard to think clearly and sometimes you need that person on the other line you need to be told what to do what not to do," Tschirhart said.

911 hold times

KCTV5 News began taking a closer look at 911 hold times when concerned viewers reported their calls for help were not immediately answered as they expected.

We discovered that more than 99 percent of emergency calls go to an automated message first before it’s answered by a real person in Kansas City. The Mid-America Regional Council manages the city’s 911 call center and provided KCTV5 with information in our open records request.

KCTV5 requested data for 2015 and learned that the average hold time was 14 seconds. Some days are more extreme.

On Sept. 1, the average wait time was 37 seconds. Someone calling for help that day waited eight minutes and 30 seconds. The day Teresa Tschirhart son, Stephen Tschirhart, died, the average wait was 27 seconds.

KCTV is waiting for specific information how long other callers, like Teresa Tschirhart waited that day.

Staffing concerns

Two city council members are reacting to KCTV5's original investigation saying they want to review staffing inside call centers.

"When they say, we only have a certain amount of staff who can handle these calls that are coming in, I have to question do we have enough staff to answer these calls for our citizens," Councilwoman Heather Hall said.

“It's never acceptable for people to be at risk for danger,” Councilwoman Alissia Canady said.

Overloaded system

Call dispatchers are also reaching out to KCTV5 as well. They defend the hold times saying they deal with incredible call volume and not all calls need to go to 911.

Kansas City's dispatch answered 1,191,568 calls in 2015. The department analyzed those calls and determined less than half were true emergencies.

Investigation continues

KCTV5 has requested more information on hold times for the current year. We’ve also asked MARC to let us know how long people waited each day in emergencies.

If you have a 911 concern to share, email us here.

Copyright 2016 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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