Dallas' Dispatch Staff Has Been Cut By 14 Percent Since 2009

Categories: Crime

Thumbnail image for HouseFire.jpg
WFAA
Dora Fuller's Oak Cliff home, after Wednesday's Fire
When Dora Fuller's Oak Cliff home caught fire early Wednesday morning, family and neighbors called 911 only to be greeted by a recorded hold message. All told, according to police it took about 10 minutes between the first call and the time a fire crew arrived from a station 500 feet away.

The inevitable question arose: Why did it take so long to reach a dispatcher? Police attributed the delay to a flood of early-morning calls and the failure of callers to stay on the line. That would have been the wise thing to have done, no doubt, but they were watching a house burn down, not calling AT&T about their cable service, and so can be forgiven for not acting in a completely logical manner.

City officials have joined in the chorus calling for a review of the city's 911 system. Mayor Mike Rawlings told the Dallas Morning News this morning that he was asking city staff to find a technological solution to the problem. Assistant City Manager A.C. Gonzalez suggested increasing the number of backup lines that instruct callers not to hang up, which is a reasonable, even obvious step.

Officials were adamant that the delayed response had absolutely nothing to do with staffing levels. DPD had upped the number of dispatchers in anticipation of a high July 4 call volume and, even though three of the 16 who were scheduled called in sick, manpower wasn't an issue. "You're never going to have it perfect at all, but I think that history shows that we have had enough call operators to handle the calls," Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano told the News. Rawlings agreed. "You can't ever staff for the total peak; that just doesn't happen in any business," Mayor Mike Rawlings said Thursday. "A tough situation happened at a high call time. But we've got to have a technological answer to this; you just can't do it with manpower.

I was curious, given the thousand cuts endured by the budget in recent years, how 911 staffing has fared. A DPD spokeswoman told me the department is preparing a statement about the incident for later today, but for year-by-year staffing levels, I'd have to submit an open records request. Since that would at least take a couple of weeks, I poked around in recent city budgets to see what I could find.

It was hard to get an apples-to-apples comparison. For one, the bulk of 911 operations were shifted from Dallas Fire-Rescue to DPD in October 2008, and the budget is rolled in with vehicle impoundment, confirmation of adult arrests, and other functions classified as "Police Operational Support."

But since 2009 at least, both funding and staffing have decreased, by 11.1 percent and 5.7 percent for Police Operational Support. It's unclear how many of those cuts fell on dispatch. Staffing has dropped even more, by 14 percent, under the "Fire Dispatch and Communications" budget item, described as providing "staffing, training, and equipment to rapidly recieve and dispatch approximately 200,000 fire/emergency medical service calls. There were other cuts to funding for temporary backup.

What the impact is on the ground impact, I'm not sure. But if you're cutting one out of every seven positions from a department, there's no way that doesn't have some impact.

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Wilson!
Wilson!

Umm, the city and DISD budgets are separate, and taxed separately.  

TURK182
TURK182

Some may be starting to get it ......   projects that do nothing except give some in the council and City Management the feeling of, WE are doing something worth wile for a mi- nute moment in time that is going to rocket this City to the "World Class" status that we so desperately want. Hint,,, Fellow Dallasites when you are World Class in the services that first provide public safety and emergency health care when it is needed in that very moment. Then that is where you put the money. Not this Bunch cuts cuts cuts !!! Did you know for example that Lake Ray Hubbard is in Dallas yes the water is Dallas and if someone is on the lake and has an emergency say heart attack. stroke, diabetic problem or seizure, heat stroke, boat on fire, call early because the ambulance and the boat car is coming from Ferguson Road.  Best day 21 minute response time.  Then we have to locate you on the Lake.  Katy Trail people  pay attention to the markers that is your life line.  When is someone gonna blow the whistle ??

Betty Culbreath
Betty Culbreath

City staff is laying about staff cuts.Last year during budget Town Hall meeting City staff had some silly ass numbers that said cutting 911 staff and cutting hours worked by firefighters would svae money but not change response time that is not possiable.What is worse City Council member took that shit as if a Super Power had sent it down from above. First how do you look at a burning house,car,child or anything else and hold on a telephone line.How does operator know whos holding,plus 911 answer and transfere to firs dispatch another delay.City Council members have not a clue how that system works.I bet none of them have visited that call center and its in City Hall.311,and 911 are answered by same operator if you dial 311 now a day it's a 30 minute wait due to staff cuts.City Manager cut budget by cutting core service, that my, Friends is not good management even if fire station had proper ventilation they would have smell smoke.

TURK182
TURK182

Man, I had to wait  at Wal Mart, until they saw that there was a lot of people standing in long lines. Luckily the manager had a technological solution available to him, he called a PERSON to open another register.  Unlike Wal Mart 911 emergencies do not have a time table. Mayor Mike the technological system you are looking for is called B I S   "Butts In Seats"  but you let the City Managers cut staff.

Anon
Anon

next they'll be wanting a food supply system capable of feeding all those millions of people. talk about a pipe dream!

Gat2KeepOnMovin
Gat2KeepOnMovin

So we should outsource our 911 operators is what you are suggesting?

Paul
Paul

It is called staffing and the number of lines available to 911. The City currently cross trains the 311 and 911 operators.  Any waits should be on the 311 callers.  However, the City does not now answer 311 calls outside of normal business hours.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

 I wonder how many of the 911 calls came from land lines ? A  land line 911 Hang up with no answer on the call back is bumped ahead in the Que . A Fire Apparatus and police respond . If its a cell phone even one that is only 911 enabled they are able to get an approximate GPS location Latitude Longitude usually the  hundred block  of the callers location . On the other hand the ctiy seems to find the extra cash to for frills that we all have come to know and love.

RTGolden
RTGolden

I see fault on both sides of the equation here. The people calling 911 should have stayed on hold, or if they do hang up, don't immediately redial.  911 calls back on hangups, for obvious reasons (like this one).  Then getting everyone around to call 911?  where is the logic in that?  "I'm on hold, ergo 911 must be swamped.  I know! I'll get all my neighbors to call 911 as well."  Mind-boggling. On the city's side (not the 911 dispatchers, they did what they were supposed to do.), 14 dispatchers for the 4th of July?  14?  Did something change and make fireworks completely safe recently?  On a day that involves, for a large number of people, bbq-ing, fireworks, being lakeside or waterborne, in the TX summer (all increased risk factors), and drinking (a multiplier for all of these risk factors), we decide 14 is enough dispatchers?

TURK182
TURK182

HELLO !!!! Remember when the Dallas Fire Dispatchers were protesting "Public Safety FIrst" and spoke to the city council about staff reductions???  At the time all the news channels reported that they (dispatchers) were complaining about their overtime being lost and the news channels flashed salaries of some of the chiefs, leading viewers to believe that it was the dispatchers salaries. This is a direct result of the cuts in minimum staffing from City Manager Mary Suhm and Assit. City Managers Kirk Stuart and A.C. Gonzales. Comments from this bunch when advised from the dispatchers that this would not be a good idea was "We are wiling to Roll The Dice".FlagTURK182 

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Everytime I hear a re-hash of this idiotic argument (because "X" is really large/big, doing it well is impossible), I just want to bang my head against the wall.

Gat2KeepOnMovin
Gat2KeepOnMovin

Are you disputing that the people involved are Obama voters?

churchlady
churchlady

Thank you for  the information re-911. Live in that area,very concerned about the response time. The family and community should receive detailed info re-the response time!

T. Erickson
T. Erickson

Toll roads between the levees > 911 dispatchers

Gat2KeepOnMovin
Gat2KeepOnMovin

It took so long because they kept hanging up. If they had stayed on the line like it clearly says when you call-- it would not have taken so long.

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