Dane County 911 Debuts Audit-Recommended Technology to Prioritize Non-Emergency Calls
February 16, 2010
Joshua Wescott, 267-8823 or 669-5606
911 Center Implementing Recommendations of 2009 Matrix Audit, Focusing on Core Public Safety Mission
Acting on a recommendation of the February 2009 audit, the Dane County 911 Center is implementing new technology to help reduce the high volume of non-emergency, non-911 calls that for years have been answered by dispatchers.
A review of the 911 Center performed by Matrix Consulting Group found 72% of the calls handled by the center are non-911 calls, including calls that come in on publicly listed, seven-digit, non-emergency phone lines. These calls range in nature from people looking for information on winter parking, driving directions, or those trying to contact local agencies across the county outside of normal business hours.
The new “auto-attendant” technology being debuted by the center is consistent with the audit’s recommendation and will help directly connect callers with the services they’re looking for, without, whenever appropriate, misusing a 911 Center dispatcher’s time. The easy-to-use automation technology will not be used on any call coming in on a 911 line. In addition, any caller to the non-emergency numbers will have the ability to quickly connect with a dispatcher if they’re in need of an immediate public safety (police, fire, ambulance) response.
This technology, while new to Dane County, is commonly used on non-emergency lines to other dispatch centers across Wisconsin. It recognizes both English and Spanish speakers.
It is estimated the “auto-attendant” will result in a nearly 10% reduction in the number of calls needing to be handled by a dispatcher, ensuring - - as the Matrix audit stated –“the focus of the center should be on handling and dispatching emergency calls for service – not on serving as a reception center for incoming business phone calls.”
Over the course of the past year, the 911 Center has diligently worked to implement the audit by increasing staff, moving forward with the purchase of new technology like a new computer aided dispatch system, and designing and planning a $1.3-million renovation to the 911 Center including construction of 22 brand-new work stations complete with the most state-of-the-art technology. The county has budgeted and spent nearly $6-million on staff and technology improvements since the audit. (See the attached memo from 911 Director John Dejung for a complete summary of progress on the 2009 audit)
“From recruiting and adding more highly trained staff to purchasing top-notch technology, 911 Director John Dejung and his staff have worked hard to implement the recommendations of the Matrix audit,” County Executive Kathleen Falk said. “Given his commitment to continuous improvement and excellence, Director Dejung has Dane County’s 911 Center on a similar track for success that he earned while director of the Minneapolis/St. Paul 911 Center.” Under Dejung’s direction, the Minneapolis 911 Center was awarded 911 Center of the Year in 2008 for its coordinated response to the I-35 bridge collapse.
A January report to the County Board showed the 911 Center is answering 911 calls, on average, in a single ring. This is better than the national 911 call answering standard. (Attached, please find a 2009 Dane County 911 Center call report summary)
“The auto-attendant is yet one more feature that will allow the Dane County 911 Center to become both more effective and efficient,” Dejung said. “The goal is to maximize the 911 Center’s ability to focus on those callers who really need a timely response to their location from our public safety responders; whether it’s law enforcement, fire, or emergency medical personnel. As always, if you need immediate public safety assistance, call 911. Otherwise, please call the non-emergency phone numbers listed in the phone book for your community.”
The county took the rare step of amending the budget mid-year in 2009 to secure the $60,000 needed to ensure the new “auto-attendant” technology was implemented as quickly as possible, as called for in the Matrix audit.
Since last fall, Dejung has routinely brought together representatives of the Madison Police Department, Dane County Sheriff’s Department and Madison Fire Department to help plan for implementation of the new program. He has also held a number of briefings for the Dane County Chiefs of Police Association, Public Safety Communications Center Board, and City of Madison Public Safety Review Board to help answer questions and be sure they’re familiar with how the technology will work.
This coming weekend, 15 911 dispatchers will be honored at the annual Dane County EMS banquet for their role in providing life-saving instructions over the phone while emergency responders were on their way to help citizens with life-threatening emergencies. These stories are summarized at the 911 Center’s website dane911.com
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