KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Jackson County, Missouri is spending $200,000 for a study on the issue of lengthy 911 hold times.
On Monday, they are hoping to hear directly from 911 users at a public hearing about their experiences with the system.
Over the past few months we’ve heard the stories of people waiting on hold for 911 to answer from the mother of Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas to a beating victim outside Arrowhead Stadium before a Luke Combs concert.
It also happened to barber Draque Murff when he was shot on the job.
“I got sent to a voicemail or answering machine saying please wait for the next available operator and I really thought I was about to die,” Murff said.
“There’s significant challenges in the Kansas City area and throughout the metro where we have long hold times, long wait times and when you call 911 you really want somebody qualified to answer the phone and send help as fast as possible,” 911 Oversight Committee Chair Sean Smith said.
Smith is hoping to hear back from the Mid America Regional Council next month on the study that looks at the different operating systems dozens of area EMS, fire and police departments use to answer 911 calls and dispatch help.
MARC data shows in March only 57% of calls to Kansas City police were answered within 15 seconds and about 81 percent within one minute.
National standards call for all calls to be answered in a minute or less and 95% to be answered in that first 15 seconds. Though better than this summer, last month response times were still slower than six months ago with more than 20% of callers waiting on hold for a minute or more.
In August KCPD received $1.5 million in County 911 funding to upgrade its servers for 911 dispatch.
“It wasn’t in any stretch of the imagination a total fix. It was a fix to one of several issues,” Smith said.
Smith believes the largest issue remains staffing. FOX4 didn’t hear back from KCPD Wednesday on how many of its 26 open dispatch positions at last check remained unfilled.
According to Smith Last year not a single dollar of the dollar monthly fee we all pay per cellphone line was spent. Draque Murff would like to see it go to hire dispatchers.
“It’s unfortunate the money that’s being spent hasn’t been allocated properly to create an effective of impact as it possibly could and hopefully that’s going to change very soon.”
However, The E-911 Fund actually has to be spent on a system upgrades like KCPD is undergoing, not hiring. At Monday’s public hearing at 12:10 p.m. on the second floor of the Jackson County Courthouse they’ll also discuss whether Grandview and Lone Jack should get some of that money for upgrades.
Smith believes the county’s biggest 911 need is having a backup system.
“What I would envision is if you call and dispatcher isn’t available say in Kansas City to answer the call it would go to the backup center. That backup center would, just like they do now, would be using the software to communicate with the system that dispatches an officer,” he said.
If you can’t attend the public hearing Smith encourages you to email him your 911 concerns or experiences at email@example.com.