Fresno Police 911 call center in crisis. Dispatchers not hitting state mandate, to answer calls in 15 seconds or less

CBS47 Investigates

A Fresno County grand jury report found Fresno’s 911 emergency center is under staffed and not about the keep up with the call demand. So CBS47 went out to investigate.

When we need help, we run to the phone and dial 911.

But what happens if you call and no one picks up in a timely manner?

Inside the Fresno Police 911 emergency center, dispatchers are struggling to meet a state mandate to answer 95 percent of 911 calls in 15 seconds or less.

Fresno Police Lieutenant David Ramsey is in charge of the 911 center.

He says right now 80 to 84 percent of 911 calls are answered in 15 seconds or less.

Last year it was around 70 to 75 percent.

In the summer months, the busiest time for crime, that rate has dropped to around 60 percent in the past.

California’s Office of Emergency Services tells CBS47, it conducts a fiscal and operational review of 911 centers through out the state.

State officials say each one receives funding to support their equipment and failure to work with the state to achieve the standards set in the operations manual could jeopardize those funds.

Ramsey says, “We are doing anything and everything we can to meet that standard for our public. Because we want to deliver it to our public, we just can’t do it yet. So I would hope that they at least see we are trying and doing everything we can, and they wouldn’t pull those funds. They have not so far.”

Dispatchers: High turn over rate, and not enough of them

For more than 20 years, Kalinda Campos has worked inside Fresno’s 911 emergency center.

She says the job as a dispatcher is rewarding, to aid people in their time of need.

But adds it’s nonstop and highly stressful.

Campos says, “When people call in they are in a panic. They are angry, they are upset, something traumatic just happened to them.”

She adds it’s a career where the turnover rate is high.

Campos says, “You have a lot of people who come, eager to work and help but sometimes the reality of what goes on the phones. It takes a toll on people and sometimes they can’t handle it. That’s not because they are weak, but sometimes there is a call that stops them in their tracks sort of speak.”

Because of that high turnover rate, city leaders are desperately searching for dispatchers.

Right now, Fresno’s 911 center is budgeted for 95 positions.

But 10 spots are vacant, 11 are currently in training, 8 are on long term absences. So that leaves just 66 working in the 911 the center.

Again, that is only 66 people to cover 35 spots each day 24 hours a day.

Ramsey says “Right now, we are averaging 7,000 911 calls a week, and over 10,000 non-emergency calls a week. that’s a hugh volume for that amount of people.”

He says the California Office of Emergency Services recommends based on Fresno’s size and call volume, 130 employees should be hired to the 911 center.

Looking for Solutions

Ramsey says, “Definitely more money is going to help. We need to hire more personal. On the other side of that, we need to lower the call volume of the calls coming in.”

He says that is where Fresno’s non-emergency 311 call center can help.

A place where can get information on a variety of city departments.

Ramsey says the department is also talking with city leaders to possibly create a new classification of dispatchers who only handle 911 calls.

Right now, dispatchers work part of their shift answering calls, and the other half working the radio relaying information to officers, which Ramsey says not everyone can do.

Ramsey says, “So hiring, training, and retention of our employees in a stressful environment is very tough and we are looking for that thin cross section of our population that can do that.”

Fresno police say if we don’t add more dispatchers or create that new job classification, the problem is only going to get worse.

Officers say a lot of public information can be found on the Fresno Police Department website and of course the Fresgo app.

If you have what it takes to be a 911 dispatcher apply here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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