Kansas City to evaluate independent 911 system in hopes of decreasing wait times

Published: Aug. 2, 2023 at 5:26 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - All options are on the table as Kansas City leaders work to find a way to improve the city’s 911 emergency system.

During a committee meeting Wednesday Kansas City Council members approved a plan that allows the city to evaluate an independent 911 system. The evaluation is expected to last a month. During that time the city hopes to determine if it can run its own 911 operations instead of relying on the current, regional system.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says he supports cooperation, but that the regional 911 system is not working for the people who call the city home.

“It can’t continue to be that way. So if it means that the city of Kansas City itself needs to find a company that can help us solve this problem, as efficiently as possible, that’s what we’re doing and that’s what this legislation is about,” Lucas said.

The mayor wants to add a menu to the system where callers would first select if they need police, fire, or medical help before being connected to a dispatcher.

The problem is that it’s a regional 911 system managed by the Mid-America Regional Council. The system is made by Motorola and the company is studying how to add a menu just for callers in Kansas City. Other metro cities don’t want the menu option.

High call volume and staffing have been the root of Kansas City’s 911 problem for years.

Data from the Mid-America Regional Council, which tracks 911 hold times for all metro area departments, revealed that in April the median wait time for KCPD was 46 seconds. By July the average wait time had climbed to 60 seconds.

The Board of Police Commissioners believes if a menu is added it could decrease hold times and police dispatchers would not have to handle as many calls, easing staffing issues.