Large Number of Cell Phone Calls Tax State 911 System
A jump in calls from cellular phones are overwhelming critical parts of California's 911 system, a move that has resulted in lost emergency calls and lengthy waits to reach dispatchers, the Los Angeles Times reports.
California calls for 90% of 911 calls to be answered in less than 10 seconds, a national standard. However, in July, the longest wait times, based on an average of the greatest delays that month, were:
- 47 minutes in the Ventura area;
- 27 minutes in the Los Angeles area; and
- More than 16 minutes in the Bay Area.
The California Highway Patrol attributed the wait times to an increased proportion of non-emergency calls on the 911 line. CHP handles almost 75% of wireless emergency calls.
About 49%, or nearly 1.5 million of the 911 calls to CHP in the Los Angeles area through July were abandoned, disconnected or the caller hung up before reaching a dispatcher. The state target for abandoned calls is 15%.
CHP has not comprehensively tracked call volumes, wait times and abandonment rates at its call centers, despite auditor and other requests since 2004 to pinpoint weaknesses and make improvements.
The state Department of General Services is pushing to shift more of the cell phone calls to more than 300 local public agencies, such as police departments in Torrance, Huntington Park, Inglewood and Irvine.
The Los Angeles Police Department in 2006 began processing wireless 911 calls, but the department has had to reroute thousands of calls each month back to CHP. Wait times by June and July were more than 10 minutes (Lopez/Connell, Los Angeles Times, 8/26).