Local & Regional
2:37 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

9-1-1 Center Working to Improve Performance, Retention

Credit Tulsa Police-Facebook

Tulsa 9-1-1 call takers aren’t meeting standards so far this year.

The national standard is for 90 percent of calls to be answered within 10 seconds. In January, 87 percent of Tulsa 9-1-1 calls were answered within 10 seconds. Last month, 74 percent were.

Director Terry O’Malley told city councilors more people are calling the 9-1-1 center.

"We've gone from 52,000 in 2002 to 92,000," O'Malley said. "And you know how many calls we took in June?"

Call takers answered 118,718 calls in June.

O’Malley proposed using an automated system to establish the nature of an emergency, saying it could prioritize calls before a person answers and save up to 30 seconds.

Tulsa’s 9-1-1 center is also having a hard time holding on to dispatchers. Three years ago, just one in five new hires stayed a full year.

In 2012 it was nearly half, but last year it was two in five staying. That’s after a six-week academy and another two to four months training, which costs the city 25 to 30 thousand dollars.

O’Malley told city councilors some dispatchers just decide the job’s not for them "or can't get call types."

"One biggie is geography," O'Malley said. "If you can't memorize the names of your streets and know where stuff is — so I think we need to test geography right off the bat. We're not doing that."

O’Malley also suggested a higher pay rate may help. Tulsa lagged 26 cents an hour behind Oklahoma City in 2011.