WWL>Topics>>3-28-14 3:10pm Angela: on the 911 dispatcher shortage

3-28-14 3:10pm Angela: on the 911 dispatcher shortage

Mar 28, 2014|

Angela talks about the undermanned New Orleans 911 dispatch with NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas, city councilwoman Susan Guidry, and Terri Bice, whose 911 call when unanswered as her house was being broken into.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

Well imagine being sound asleep only to hear someone breaking your door down. That's what happened to a New Orleans family who immediately called 911. Not once but twice. Never getting an answer. Fortunately the family dog scared away those breaking in. But the incident revealed an uncomfortable truth. Just as we are dangerously low on police officers we are also very short on 911 operators. So to find out what's going on and what's being done to fix this. We are thrilled to have councilwoman Susan -- three as our guest. And also -- -- who is the homeowner who woke up in the night to the sound up for -- being broken down. But we start with and were so pleased to have police chief Ronald -- and chief I really appreciate you joining us. Have you. I know this is tough for you I saw the interview where you are. You know you are apologizing -- and and that is good but at the same time I think it just. So do a lot of people nobody had any idea we were that low on 911 operators how did we get to that point. You know there's there's this issue we talked about two days ago the council. Our community and as well established that this cities but in practices at the end of the last administration now just basically broke it's broke -- of people. Broker -- the police department broken as a city. And it has a lot of years to dig out of that so the thing that is encouraging we hope. Is that we have -- -- -- that problem now and that we do have some funding available we have some quality candidates that were interviewing. To add people to not own apartment but clearly -- people to the call takers so. Let that the in the -- and you hurt you but you audience he'd be here. Nobody in the world wants to be late to call and noticed that you must await that Colby answered. And it is unfortunate and it happens we got to do everything we can fix it and I am glad now that we have some capacity in our budget to get some things. Not that -- how long was it. As -- as that it is. We suffered you know when outburst came here -- and if you remember. There are. Somewhere on the order of half of the people that were hired by our predecessors. -- call -- there was no funding in the budget for. And the citizens of the war -- cannot hit the city ago in negative back -- and -- let those people grow. And that's basically it and the problem for a very long time. Two years ago we got the or communication district which is separate standalone agency. To contribute on to our ability our call papers. And we were able to get at least back up at 383739. Call takers here's an -- Now we've done some very effective work with any problems office and looking at the time of day in demand called the days off but I'll audit. We think we need about it call takers we got a new -- -- the work of the -- was golden and great to be updated. So now we're in a position where we can tell the public. We've got it we always understood this issue but now we've got some solutions real solutions with real money. The accident well. Mrs. -- here and she is forced the the homeowner who was San. -- in the middle of the night by somebody trying to break in and she has has written a thing that she's asking all the right questions about. A sources of money. Do you wanna talk to the chief. I did -- senate passed thank you -- for being here with us today. Regarding audit processes. I'm wondering how does the police department actually know that we're getting. Then 911 fees that are collected from cellular phone companies and their landline phone companies. How do we know that we're getting that money facts do lots. A question that actually answered by the chief administrative office in the finance department the police department does not collect he's or audit the accounts the many. You know literally on. But counts that the city in the wall audits and make sure the revenues would be in properly distributed back to the city. That question came up -- these so bring an up -- group. So easily -- chief he had. Hi it's -- -- how you doing on. And Iran well thank you and yes council member can -- spoke about revenue art it. That should be in the works. With regard to the Orleans parish communications district which is the state entity that's over the facility the 911 facility. And and they said indeed -- are moving toward that audit to see if we are collecting. From the beast that we would go to New Orleans parish communications history in other words. -- -- interrupt you just for a moment. Everybody has a cell phone everybody has a land line pays a fee 85 cents or whatever it is every month under bill. And that is to go to supposedly the 911 or two other entities. Or just 911911. Gunman want so there's your pool of money the question is an and that money would you would think would cover. The number of 911 operator you would like. Actually I believe that the -- parish communications district is in charge of the facilities and equipment. And that in the personnel. Is responsibility. Other than that OP CD personnel. The personnel. Call takers dispatchers and responsibility. The New Orleans Police Department mainly. Also send dispatches are our department and summer EMS. But in other -- I guess on I'm confused a little bit. There is this isn't just regular tax money and this is money that is set aside specifically. By phone users who pay this small fee every month. That should cover these costs. I -- my understanding the eight covered the costs the running of the operation not they're not in the early and now okay the man is and chief you can correct me if you think -- mom acting that's a split avid but we still do need to know. In in order to have the best equipment and -- best running facility. That we are getting the funds that we are you should be getting from -- You're absolutely right the way they're all these public Sapient -- those bonds that are on your cell phone on your land -- phone. Those bonds have bottled in this particular case in most places across the country back that building to maintain the the expensive expensive equipment to do well this 11 calling. It is dispatching to do the monitoring does that work -- In the city in the war on it is the police are met that provide personnel. We've been able to get some funding from OECB from their extra money or whatever money -- should say it is. Help us -- and -- some call takers in the apartment that we got our budget. More alive and we don't want them contribute that they've been contributing or long. The -- chief humid said that you were going to place. Some in this emergency time in -- we can get more on nine room and operators on line. To use some police officers. No actually we've been doing that. A few years now please opposite let's say. Is injured -- seriously while working in making it work in the field for a six month straight month while that on the left. We put as many of them offices in the problem once and that's appropriate to their abilities right. We also have offices sometimes that we have to remove from street duty for different administrative investigative reasons and will put them in the 911 senate does as well. So we've been doing that -- since 2010. Until you can get -- then magic number the 55 or 56 that you would like. What other things might you be able to do. The question really boiled down to this you have to have been always going to be in managed well and that's always a responsibility. And you have to be able to recognize that -- 911 senate does not get the same number or call the same number of minutes every single day it ebbs and flows. So one of the things we've done is create ships that overlap each other that so they're not busiest time. We'll have more people and this is a very delicate point and to but I hope you can help -- get -- cross. If the national average is the answer 95%. 911 not the eight to 122 point enough but the 911. It the national expected averages answer those within 95% of the time within five seconds. It still means you -- -- percent of the time that something was back up the system and you couldn't get the call immediately. So an -- were around 90% within. Were within answered the call within that period 90% of the time which is not good enough. But it does mean nine out of ten we are getting that call answered quickly no don't make any -- Monica and appeals. So it's not that we haven't had some success we just don't have enough success. Before I let you go could you just give us a quick update I know you're working very hard -- we've done programs on this and in recruiting police officers and done. And kind of where are we -- I heard you say the other day you have like 111000 senate that applicants but not all are gonna make it. Get what we've done is in we're using the Internet map to recruit worldwide and nationwide has been very success we've had 30000 people look at -- site. And bottom line answer your question we've had nearly 12100 people fill out an application it was -- and civil service and the end of November. I'd probably more than we've got an all time but what happens is the amount of people at your eye on that is about ten to 15% because. Some people qualify based on their applications some people won't make -- background. And here's an important thing and I know all the -- work however and long. I am not going to be the kind of police chief that Russia's hire a lot of people to meet number. We got it yet but right people shall we take very careful analysis of the people who apply itself. We gotta get a lot of people in the system we have nineteen hired for the next class we have 48 people and our background. Civil service in the past two days ago I think. We do -- for the month now because there's so much interest. We're going in the right direction but we're called as a result of the corporate budget conditions that we heard it and that's out of back with thank goodness but back. We couldn't have recruitment campaign in 1011 and well we just couldn't. Now we're really I met with both our report that the equipment and network. Chief I appreciate it. You calling in very very much this means a lot. Thank you very much have a great day in and and we won't get the right believe me. -- Thank you again that's right Ronald surpassed and down we're gonna take a break we're gonna come back rumor gonna talk to this lady. Who had a very -- experience and to councilwoman on Susan gantry right after this. Well as we started this program imagine being sound asleep only to here's someone breaking your door down. That is what happened to Terry vice. Few nights ago what was the date. It was march 16 march next Sunday morning Sunday morning so if you would take this to that. It's counseling her sound asleep the first thing I remember is Mike. I'm saying to me Terry wake up I think someone's breaking into coyotes and it's. I just went on pure adrenaline. Picked up my phone call 911. And it's as he went downstairs. And weighted approximately two minutes no one answered -- I thought in mind. Fear paste I did in dialogue that correct numbers are dialed it again. And waited for about a -- By the time I was downstairs. And my MI sign. How determined that no one was in pilots. So. That we did -- and you wind wise outside lurking for honor black. I do go upstairs and went on the Internet and it's locked up the NO PD non urgent number. And called that twice and no when he answered. I happen to know that I live in the second district. Not many people probably know what even district they live in. No I think that's a cause for education and it's. I called the second district task in the -- sergeant answered. And said well. Your number nine on the list we'll get someone out as soon as possible. I was rather stunned. So. Waited. Mike and I were downstairs and we. Tried to have propped up the -- -- as possible in the door literally was often hinge note at the bottom half profit was broken off it was. Either kicked in or broken with -- some kind of went to school. So the bottom half from the -- missing. Very scary -- -- sale and we really think that on the barking dog is what scared. In retrospect -- are. Mike said that she was barking and as we went downstairs she was parking and she does bark a lot and I'm sure that her barking scared. That. Perpetrate or perpetrators way. I mean it's just everybody's worst nightmare it is seeing it truly is and then there is staying. Not just a feared that the later frustration of all systems fail our systems failed how long did that take when -- ultimately got there. It was approximately two hours until an officer came to take their report. And we. On sat there on guard. Sure -- pilots you know bomb blankets and pillow but we weren't sleeping that's for sure to -- waiting and listening and just being on edge he would that entire time. Susan did three councilwoman. Head of the committee that just happened to be meeting. Your -- really addressing and simply listened to what the chief had to say and there's just not enough people. Right in no question about it 36 call takers. Nobody's been able to give me the exact number yet as as to what the proper number of call takers or for the volume. And asked the administration's. IT department. Is supposed to get me get information. -- yesterday asked thinks I should be getting it soon but. Bad but the bottom line is it's that there were nine that call takers and then. Early morning hours when this happened. To miss -- there -- three call takers. At that at the 911 center taking calls. Now at a chart that the city. Showed this in a PowerPoint papers and Wednesday. Shows that you should been about ten. Call takers at that time and they did also have a technical glitch that occurred with AT&T. But it it. Which created the 'cause. There were. Too few call takers in the calls for getting all act up and an alarm went off at the Carrollton AT&T'S station. He told the -- station and I'm and one might not be working. So he began a series of tests calls and the like which just -- of course added to exit date number of calls set of were backed up in the Q. And and he took some action that actually diverted the 911 calls from that area that went through that station. To the second priority. On ten digit emergency number that I'm someone has. That alarm companies for -- state now call in to. So that meant that did that day nine -- and calls from that area were actually being seen as not the top priority. When the office -- send your ninth in line. And maybe we'll never know but what were the other eight I didn't pass by. I can tell you that I mean I don't know with the other eight but I can tell you that I. And learned about this situation. Once you report to the police that the perpetrators is gone the danger is not present. Then. The it is written. As a non emergency. And is put behind. Other calls that are more critical. At the time so people off then. Of course are already at wit's end because there was a new year you tragedy. And then they have to wait. You know two hours for the police and and of course the anger and frustration in the sense of being deserted. All comes into play there on top of what they've already experienced. And what that uses it's exactly that to agenda items I had on criminal justice committee meeting on Wednesday. Because we know these top priorities right now. 911 deficiencies. And the deficiencies in the police office not enough police officers to -- -- Cox stay with us everyone that's the bottom line right there not enough we'll be right back let's now go to the newsroom and donning. People were talking with Terry vice. And councilwoman Susan injury about the really horrendous incidents that happened down. On March 16 where Terry Weisz and her family were sound asleep -- somebody literally broke her door I mean. Chopped it trying to get him the dog bark they got a -- but the the real tragedy was her. Effort to call 911 and other police numbers and getting nowhere. And we we heard from the police chief for talking with the councilwoman who's been looking into this and as your committee looks into the whole thing of our criminal justice system. But you know in the commercial we're talking to Terry -- and who again -- so brave to come forward to have this discussion and yet the reality is we may lose you do we mainly due to another city. Because nine you're afraid. I am afraid. I'm very afraid. I'm. There are several crimes on my street. About a year ago and -- one of them was a murder. And I'm deathly considering moving out of the city not even to Jeff. Some parents probably approximately. Home from my safety. Now I wish I could say something too but -- I totally understand what you're saying as I know the councilwoman does. Yes and mean I can't I always feel like these are decisions that people have to make for themselves. You know I certainly. Feel backed. We are working toward getting a handle on. The crime and there are suggestions that can be made in terms of security assistance. I even made it the epic. Very interesting remarked -- that they call 911. Right this you system back on 911 that week we do plan on getting a handle on 91191. As a very distinct. And small operation that we should be able to get a handle on so. At this morning I just showed up over 911 to see what was going on. And to talk to the people who are there are working there and see what was needed and we received some very interesting information that I am going to bring back to the administration. And had some suggestions that. I hope that. We can. Used to. Take the situation right now where we have 36 call takers -- it'll be five months before we get staffed up to 55. And do something to increase our call taker volume. Now and to decrease. Decrease the amount of calls that they have to take and that is by taking away the police. DTL calls right and then doing. Some. Plain and overtime. With the existing call takers. So they can be scheduled for overtime. And that will increase in numbers. You were hearing from them went any operation is short staffed it is extra pressure on the people who remain. And so you're hearing from them. You know they're exhausted they may need a break they need whenever and if there were three working that night and literally if one went to the restroom. Then you've got two men. It. What can realistically be done before we -- capacity and five. Month that this is what I'm seeing as of today but my take away from I was there for two hours today. And in ways that. I mean you can't hire temporary call takers it's you know it's very I you have to be very well trained to handle those. Emergency situations properly. And I. And so we can only use what we have now. And it's not a we have additional dispatchers -- could come down and be called takers for a while they're short short to. So -- So if we had planned schedule without overtime and that the call takers can take. That over the irregular hours that would put a few more -- takers today on the on the job in the seats. Reasonably we live in what's called -- metropolitan area and that includes Jefferson Parish and some not are there. Outlying parishes saint Tammany what's the possibility. Of using any of those resources or can any of the 911 calls and I understand this may not be a question that you can answer. But can any of those calls he diverted. And -- sharing of resource is however a sharing -- cooperative agreement between our law enforcement agencies. Well that's certainly something that to be looked into I don't know what their status is in terms of their capacities. And you know what it would take them to be able to convert those calls and then have them be able to. You know. Basically assess the need to -- You know PD. Get get those radio I'm even wondering are there on those call takers who might have retired recently might come back on a short term -- -- -- trained. And just you know could you work for 45 months and that's another possibility -- into everything and the idea that is a possibility. And the other thing of course is as page detailed calls when you at least go on page. -- card call into the 911 center to state where they are going to be on their -- And then call when they're done with BP. And -- the police chief Telesis that the reason for that he says that. The police have in their system. The location. Of all those on you know all those active police officers. So that they can be called into an emergency. If necessary to. And you know that's that's well and good. But that's adding a burden on to this call takers. It's about 88 point 5% of their Cox. Are the paid details. So they are now using police officers on light duty. And on administrative reassignment. To answer those calls and -- in form this morning that they're taking about 70%. Of the -- But we need to get the other 30% off -- there and am I think we should look for permanent fix on the act. -- -- the new office of secondary employment which is the detail. Is there anything they can contribute to. Was certainly it -- it certainly. The -- that that thought has been shouldn't this all move over to the office of secretary employment. And the it's obvious -- administration isn't planning that right now. But we're pushing on an act I think they're gonna have to staff up for it. And there's gonna have to be equipment costs are -- a lot of costs associated with that wears a 911 call center. Automatically feeds the information into the NO PD. Computers and data systems so that. You know said that did then don't PSE would have to set up for the same thing. They would this will continue our top right activists. We -- back talking about what happened with the 91 mall 11 call system Susan injury very briefly if you can't. Missed the spices but this is not the only incidence of late -- 911 was not responded. No it the unfortunate was not too which had -- didn't have four incidents reported to me. When the about the sex same timelessness spices incident. And probably due to the same reasons -- -- takers in the AT&T technician issue. -- -- someone and French Quarter called regarding a big fight that was happening in a woman being insulted. Most awfully on the night before. A young man parent McCain was shot in the neck. In gentility. And people were calling 911. And not getting a response and fortunately. Someone had commander John Thomas of the third district's phone number in his cellphone. An address book so they were able to call him. And then Wednesday night when I can't home from the criminal justice committee meeting -- Turned on the TV in the news was talking about a gentleman who had scared off for a -- perpetrators who was attempting to rape a woman. They Carl and I and -- -- and waited and waited and finally he put her in his car brought her to the second district station can. It's really pointing out what to. We all know and you know he's not there were anti police were cheering them on but we have a real problem we don't have enough people we don't have another 911. We don't have enough police officers. It is a problem. This is a very serious problem and I'm looking interface despise. Your sun shining you are wonderful to come on which are still scared I'm -- yes and everybody truly understands this. I hope everyone stays with this we'll take another break we'll be right back. Thank you Terry -- and she asked the question decision -- dream where do we go from here. I can say is I'm gonna stay on it. -- the administration. Is. You know adamant that they're gonna half full staff singer and in better than -- staffing. Within the five month period it takes to train people. Thank you both for coming here to thank you so much reminds you hoped this day. And everybody else have a great weekend now will join the news department and Don names.