CLEVELAND-- The FOX 8 I-Team has toured the new Cleveland 911 center, and the technology should help get police, fire and ambulance crews to you more quickly. But there are still questions about staffing to handle your calls.
Dispatchers for all city emergency services just moved into a new facility in a new building. Officials showed us the technology there includes better ways to know where calls are coming in, where emergency crews are, and if calls are backing up from the same location. Even something as simple as transferring calls has improved.
The I-Team showed you the old dispatch room. Christmas lights replaced burned-out room lights; an air conditioner was out of service; toilets were out of service; and trash was piled up.
And in recent days, the I-Team has exposed delays with 911 calls made in the city on cell phones. Relatives with a baby shot in a car waited a minute and a half to talk to a Cleveland dispatcher. Traditionally, calls made in Cleveland from cell phones have first gone to a county dispatcher, then they’ve been transferred to the city. But now the city says it is starting to handle emergency calls made from cell phones. Soon the city will handle all of them. So no more transfers.
Commander Debra Cavett said, “We do have one provider that came on in the beginning of the month. We’re working on the second one. And by November first, we’ll be handling all wireless calls in the city of Cleveland.”
Cavett also says all Cleveland schools and some others are getting, in effect, panic buttons installed in the offices. These will allow someone to press the buttons in emergencies, and police will be contacted immediately. Dispatchers will also be able to hear what’s going on there for thirty seconds. No phone call needed.
However, the I-Team has also heard complaints of forced overtime for dispatchers. Police say they have openings right now for nine dispatchers. That means about 10% of the police dispatcher jobs are unfilled, and the workload will get heavier with more cell phone calls coming directly to the city.
Will there be enough workers to handle the calls? Cavett said, “Mandatory overtime is not going on that often. We look for volunteers, basically people who volunteer for it. So we look for volunteers before we have to mandate someone to stay over.”