Changes to KC’s 911 system to be discussed at emergency meeting

Published: Jun. 27, 2023 at 4:07 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Kansas City’s 911 system could soon see major changes.

The Board of Police Commissioners authorized Kansas City police to call for an emergency meeting to discuss a new way for 911 calls to be handled.

The new system will likely allow callers to choose if they want fire, ambulance or police through an automated system. That would hopefully help streamline and route calls without having to wait on hold for a call taker.

911 hold times have been a relentless focus of KCTV5 Investigates. The average hold times for 911 are now a full minute, according to the latest data. Some callers wait even longer.

It’s become a personal issue for Kansas City’s mayor after his sister sat on hold for close to five minutes to get help for their mother.

“Everyone on this board actually has a personal experience in some way with this issue,” said Mayor Quinton Lucas. “Heaven forbid, almost every one of 508,000 in Kansas City has a personal experience!”

Other high-profile cases include a recent attack at Arrowhead Stadium before the Luke Combs concert. Records show the couple sat on hold for more than four minutes.

KCTV5 requested data from Sunday, when a mass shooting took place. Depending on the time of day you called, you either waited an average of three seconds or 1 minute and 48 seconds. Records show one person sat on hold for 11 minutes and 18 seconds before connecting with a real person.

How 911 works

Currently, all calls are routed through the KCPD first. However, staffing problems and high call volumes mean almost everyone hears an automated message that first encourages them to sit on hold and wait for the next call taker.

Kansas City’s 911 system is part of a regional 911 system. In the past, changing to an automated system would have forced all local 911 systems on both sides of the state line to make the change. That’s no longer the case.

Not wanting to wait until the end of July for a scheduled meeting, Mayor Lucas called for an emergency meeting to institute changes for just Kansas City. He suggested everyone simply gather on Zoom.

“You’re now directed by the entire board to please get an emergency meeting and get this done,” said Board President Cathy Dean.

More updates could be ahead to address issues

Board of Commissioners members asked about adding a fourth option in the automated answers for callers with non-emergency issues, but that would likely happen after the launch of the new plan.

Police also talked about an update in the works that would respond to 911 hang-up calls. Currently, they get nearly 22,000 hang-ups a month. New software would allow computers to do the initial callback and determine if the caller still needs police.