Family gives up on 911 after hearing automated please hold message

Nathan is fine. But the family has no confidence is the 9-1-1 system. It failed them when they needed help.

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- When you call 9-1-1, you expect to be able to talk with some immediately, But if you live in Kansas City, be prepared to sit on hold and wait.

You’ll likely hear a recorded message before you get a dispatcher.

One Kansas City family we talked to were stunned to get a recorded message when they called 9-1-1 seeking help for a child who suddenly went unconscious and started having seizures.

“We literally have a 4-year-old baby unconscious, seizing on the floor and we can’t get ahold of 911,” said Simone Grantham, the child’s aunt. “It was scary.”

Multiple family members grabbed phones and called for help for little Nathan. They all got the recording. Then they tried to call a precinct directly and got another automated message. They’re not alone.

Our investigative team has revealed the startling statistics on 911 hold times. The average wait time in four months of last year was longer than 20 seconds. That’s outside the national standards. Even worse, the maximum hold times in two months of last year was more than 12 minutes.

The family decided the best way to get help for the boy was to drive him to the hospital themselves.

“We got him in the car he had a seizure in my arms,” said Kajaun Johnson, Nathan’s dad. “I told him ‘Stay with me. We are going to get through this and get you there.”

Their story has a happy ending. Nathan is fine. But the family has no confidence is the 9-1-1 system. It failed them when they needed help.

“I was dumbfounded. It was crazy! Because how are you an emergency line? In an emergency, we can’t get a hold of you,” said Grantham.

To be fair, it’s possible that if the family had kept holding, their call might have been answered within seconds. We learned that on the day the family called for help, the average hold time was 12 seconds. The hour they called someone waited one minute and 21 seconds.

We also learned that on that same day, someone waited on hold for three minutes and 51 seconds.

Still, the best advice from the city is to be patient and wait. If you hang up and redial, you’ll move to the end of the hold queue.

Kansas City is unique when it comes to hold times. We checked other departments in the Kansas City Metro, and no other department struggles with long waits like KCMO sometimes does. 

We even checked with other cities of comparable size. All who have responded so far are within the national guidelines. In Oklahoma City, 97% of 911 calls are answered with in 20 seconds. In Denver, the average wait last year was  6.06 seconds. Seattle’s average wait time was 1.9 seconds. is now with you on the go! Get the latest news updates and video, StormTrack5 weather forecast, weather radar, special investigative reports, sports headlines and much more from KCTV5 News. 

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