Cuyahoga County makes changes to 911 dispatch to speed up hold times

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CLEVELAND (WJW)– The FOX 8 I-Team learned a big change takes effect Tuesday that Cuyahoga County officials say you’ll notice every time you call 911 in Cleveland from a cell phone.

The change comes as a way to get your 911 calls answered quicker. But, the I-Team is also asking if it will get you help faster.

The county said beginning this week, 911 calls made from a cell phone in Cleveland will be answered by county dispatchers, instead of by someone in the city 911 center. The county said it promises the new system means you won’t have to wait when seconds count.

In recent months, the I-Team reported on hundreds of 911 calls a month either not answered by Cleveland dispatchers or not answered immediately. We’ve revealed, at times, the city has fallen short of state standards for answering 911 calls.

“This, again, guarantees that nobody’s sitting on hold and hearing the phone ring while they’re trying to get a loved one, or someone else, emergency help,” said Cuyahoga County Chief of Special Operations Brandy Carney.

Just weeks ago, we even showed you a highway patrol dispatcher on hold for minutes waiting to get an ambulance to the scene of a man shot and wounded by an undercover agent.

The county said its dispatchers will take on as many as 400,000 calls to 911 made from cell phones in Cleveland each year. The county said it has been hiring more call takers. 

But now, those calls will also go through two dispatchers. A county dispatcher will transfer the calls to the city 911 center. So, how much time will be saved by trying to get calls answered quicker if they then have to be transferred during emergencies?

We asked the county what about the argument that somebody will call now and have to talk to multiple dispatchers to explain what’s going on?

“I would say, that’s a fair question. We are only asking, ’Where is the emergency?’ We’re verifying that information, and we’re transferring that call. So, our piece is done within five seconds,” Carney said.

The city of Cleveland did not respond to a request for comment for this story. But, for an earlier I-Team report on this issue, Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia sent an email, which said, in part:

“The Cleveland Division of Police Communications Control Section (CCS) works diligently each day to ensure citizens’ calls for police service are answered and dispatched in a timely manner. 

Having city of Cleveland calls for police service routed to CECOMS will not speed up service to citizens.  This will  add another layer to the call answering process as the calls for service would be answered by a call taker in CECOMS and then rerouted to the city of Cleveland for processing.”

So, will the new system save time? Will it take more time to get you help? The time for the change is now here, so there won’t be any more waiting to find out.

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