BPA Featured Article

Memphis Lowers 911 Wait, Enhances Quality

By Mandi Nowitz, Web Editor
January 05, 2018

In case of emergency, you are supposed to call 911. But, what if calling the emergency number actually could cost you your life rather than saving it? That has become an issue for several states as reported hold times have skyrocketed. One place that felt this struggle was Memphis, Tennessee.

About two years ago, wait times to speak to a 911 operator were around one minute, which is now down to eight seconds. Resident, Brenda Woods, was shocked that anyone would have to wait 60 seconds to reach emergency assistance. "I'd be horrified. I'd be horrified. If I'm calling 911, that means I need help immediately." The national standard is having 95 percent of calls answered in 20 seconds or less.

This same issue occurred in San Antonio, Texas, prompting the hiring of an additional 49 people to the call center, enhancing quality and efficiency for patrons. The wait times were the general problem for call centers that experienced unanswered or dropped calls; staffing. Emergency Communications Administrator, Michael Spencer, monitored the problems and decided it was time to add approximately 30 new staff members to the call center. This doubled the staff which, with proper training and dedication, helped the dramatic lowering of the 911 wait times.

"It's nice they don't have that forced overtime anymore and that they're not answering calls back-to-back," said Spencer. "We have enough people. Now they have a small break in between phone calls."

Additionally, many callers would once hang up when the wait times got too long. That has decreased by two-thirds since the new tactics have been implemented. "When they call 911, they're already going through something difficult and stressful. So, having us answer quickly just eliminates another reason for them to be stressed out," Spencer added.

By adding more people to the call center which lowered answer times, Memphis saw results it had waited on for two years. The city spokesperson says that the goal is to keep the wait times low while adding a higher level of quality assurance to each call so no one hangs up feeling unfulfilled. Looks like Memphis has a great start. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle