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Staffing shortages are being blamed for longer wait times when people call 911 to report local emergencies.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s goal — and the industry’s standard — is to answer 90% of all calls in 10 seconds or less.
That’s not happening.
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At Monday’s City Council meeting, Deputy Chief David Robinson said only 60% of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s 911 calls are being answered in 10 seconds or less. Some callers, he said, can wait as long as one to five minutes.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s 911 operators last year answered more than 1 million call, Robinson said, with about 30% of those calls classified as “duplicate calls.”
“I think about it myself,” he said. “If I call 911 and say, ‘Hey, I just witnessed an accident or somebody got assaulted…” I don’t have time to listen to voicemail, and I certainly don’t want to listen to the phone ring and ring and ring.”
Robinson said the operator shortage is a national concern, not one affecting just Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
As of Monday, Robinson said, CMPD needed to hire 16 people for its 911 call center to be fully staffed.
To attract and retain 911 operators, the department has implemented a series of financial incentives, including hiring and retention bonuses, shift differentials and across-the-board pay raises.
The department also has expanded its wellness programs to help operators deal with the mental and emotional stresses that come with hours of responding to high-pressure, life-and-death situations.
Robinson said applicants must pass extensive testing before they are hired as 911 operators, adding that Chief Johnny Jennings has said the department must not lower standards because of the labor shortage.
“We’re going to be intentional about putting the right people in the right seat at the right time,” Robinson said.