KCMO’s new automated 911 plan would likely be first of its kind

This week, a series of emergency meetings will take place to fundamentally change the 911 system.
This week, a series of emergency meetings will take place to fundamentally change the 911 system.(KCTV5 News)
Updated: Jul. 11, 2023 at 6:00 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Kansas City has a new idea to solve extreme hold times when it comes to emergency calls: an automated system prompting people to choose if they need police, fire or medical by selecting 1, 2 or 3.

This week, a series of emergency meetings will take place to fundamentally change the 911 system. On Wednesday, the Public Safety Communications Users Committee will meet and make a recommendation. On Thursday, the Public Safety Communications Board will likely vote on that recommendation.

KCTV5 has learned that this new system would likely be the first of its kind in the nation.

The National Emergency Number Association is currently unaware of any city using such a system for emergency calls. KCTV5 was provided a list of communities using auto attendants for non-emergency lines, which included New Orleans, Austin and Phoenix.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas’ office suggested a look at Denver as a comparable system. However, the director of communications for Denver’s Department of Public Safety revealed auto attendants are only used for non-emergency calls.

911 on Hold: A Kansas City reality

KC’s 911 hold times have exceeded nationwide standards for years. June’s average hold time was 47 seconds. May’s average hold time was a full minute.

KCTV5 has covered this issue extensively. We have talked with countless people who have waited on hold, listening to a prerecorded message encouraging them to stay on the line, not knowing when a real person will finally answer.

People have given up and ran to firehouses for help. One family gave up and drove a seizing child to the hospital themselves. Recently, a couple called 911 for help after the husband was attacked at Arrowhead Stadium before the Luke Combs concert. Records show they waited more than four minutes on hold.

The issue grabbed the mayor’s attention when his mother needed help. His sister waited on hold for close to five minutes for help.

“No one should be waiting on hold when they call 911. Full stop,” the mayor said. “That’s something that needs to change in Kansas City. Whether it’s my mother, whether it’s anybody, it is a terrifying experience.”

Why the extreme hold times?

Kansas City struggles with high call volume and low staffing.

The most recent Kansas City Police Department crime report reveals 25% of all calls to 911 are misdials and hangups. An additional 20% are calls to 911 for information.

That means about half of all calls flooding the 911 system are not true emergency phone calls.

The KCPD answered 530,195 calls to 911 in 2022.

Police ask people to call 311 with any city complaints.

Also, the KCPD’s non-emergency number is: 816-234-5111.