I-TEAM: Big changes aimed at ending delays with your 911 calls in Cleveland

I-Team
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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-Team has uncovered sweeping changes aimed at getting your 911 calls answered more quickly in light of thousands of people getting no answer or getting a recording.

This week, the I-Team exposed how often it happens.

Now, we’ve learned, this is coming to light with plans moving forward to take 911 cell phone calls in Cleveland out of city dispatch. Instead, those calls will be sent to Cuyahoga County dispatch with the goal of getting the calls answered more quickly.

A Cuyahoga County committee decided Cleveland has struggled handling 911 calls for too long. In fact, a state agency has also found Cleveland dispatch too slow to answer too often.

Each year, the city gets about 400,000 cell phone 911 calls. But plans are now beginning to move forward to have those calls ring in county dispatch and cut down on delays.

“We want to make sure standards are observed, but more importantly, all calls are answered as quickly as possible,” Cuyahoga County Chief of Special Operations Brandy Carney said.

State standards say 90% of 911 calls have to be answered in 10 seconds. Ninety-five percent in 20 seconds. We now have letters showing in each of the last two years that the Ohio Department of Administrative Services found Cleveland dispatch falling short. In one letter, the state even referred to an earlier I-Team report.

We’ve shown you city dispatch is often short-staffed.

We’ve reported, up to thousands of 911 calls a month don’t get answered immediately. They get classified as “abandoned” calls. Callers hang up and decide to try later, or they handle an emergency themselves. The city has said many of the abandoned calls can be tied to pocket dials or kids playing with phones.

And, the city has said, dispatchers call back everyone right away after an abandoned call. But, privately, dispatchers and union leaders say many of those people do not get called back right away. Dispatchers are often too busy.

Even if the cell phone 911 calls go to the county, callers will still have to talk to city police, fire and EMS. So we asked how much time will be saved by having county dispatchers answer and then transfer calls back to the city?

Brandy Carney said, “That’s a fair question. It might seem counter-intuitive to have that extra step. But right now, us answering the call seems, from a timing perspective, to make more sense.”

We reached out to the city for comment. We were told to expect a statement. But as of late Tuesday afternoon, we had not received one.

We have learned, though, the city is looking into what it can do to keep handling the calls and answer more quickly. But, for now, changes are coming so that you don’t have to wait when you can’t afford to wait.

Related video below:

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