SDPD Responds to 911 Wait Time Concerns

When you call 911 to report an emergency, you don’t expect to be put on hold but it does happen, San Diego Police Department officials said Thursday.

A member of the NBC 7 news team dialed 911 from a mobile phone Wednesday at 12:04 p.m. to report an emergency in downtown San Diego.

She was put on hold. After one minute, she hung up. At 12:07 p.m., she received a call back from a dispatcher who took her report.

When approached about the recording stating that 911 dispatchers were answering other calls, an SDPD spokesperson confirmed the call was not answered immediately and explained why.

SDPD received more than 200 phone calls in one hour that were handled by 11 dispatchers.

“We had 134 911 calls during that hour, and over 71 non-emergency calls just in that hour,” said spokesperson Lt. Scott Wahl.

Wahl confirmed the time it took our staffer to reach a 911 operator was two minutes and 41 seconds.

That high volume of calls produced the second busiest hour for the department’s dispatch that day.

In the day, 88 percent of calls were answered in fewer than ten seconds, 91 percent in fewer than 20 seconds and 98 percent were answered in less than one minute, they said.

However, Wahl said the incident is a rare one for the dispatch center.

"We strive every day to answer those calls as quickly as we possibly can and when they hang up, although their call still stays in queue, it takes time for dispatcher to call back," he said.

He went on to suggest citizens not hang up and call back multiple times because that loads up the queue and slows the process down even more.

Dispatchers have to return each one of those calls, sometimes leaving voice mail messages if their return call is not answered.

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