City officials vow to fix 911 system

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SAN DIEGO -- Amid a flurry of publicity about unfortunate and “unacceptable'' delays in San Diego's response to several extremely urgent 911 calls, Mayor Kevin Faulconer Tuesday announced a slate of strategies to do away with emergency-service lag times.

“When you call 911, there must be an answer,'' Faulconer said during an afternoon briefing. “In the vast majority of the time, the call is picked up in a matter of seconds. But that's not always the case.''

To address the problem, the mayor pledged to institute more “aggressive'' dispatcher recruitment and retention policies; assign more back- up employees to the city's 911 call center; publicly report dispatch call statistics on a monthly basis; analyze dispatcher work procedures to reveal improvement opportunities; and educate the public on when and how to properly use the system.

“The longer 911 wait times that have been reported are unacceptable to me,'' Faulconer told reporters outside downtown police headquarters.

Last month, a Mira Mesa couple whose dog had mauled their newborn son was repeatedly unable to get through to a 911 operator, officials said. Following the futile attempts to get an ambulance sent out, they took it upon themselves to rush the child to a hospital, where the infant was pronounced dead.

Two other delayed-response cases that recently came to light involved home invasions in Bankers Hill and La Jolla last fall. During those incidents, first reported by Voice of San Diego, residents waited more than eight minutes and nearly six minutes, respectively, to get hold of dispatchers after finding intruders in their homes in the middle of the night.

The city's goal is to answer at least 90 percent of emergency calls within 10 seconds, police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said. Last year, that target was reached 80.67 percent of the time, and the average local wait time was 13 seconds, according to the mayor's office.

In 2015, San Diego's 911 center received a total of 672,834 calls, city officials reported.

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