New numbers released by Salt Lake City’s 911 Dispatch for October show a 66 percent decrease in the total number of overtime shifts performed by dispatchers at the agency, with the number of mandatory overtime shifts down 84 percent from July 2016.
In September and October, 911 calls were answered within 15 seconds, 92 percent to 98 percent of the time, including between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. – the 10 busiest hours of the day. During the spring of 2016, calls were being answered within 15 seconds only 85 percent to 89 percent of the time. The bureau’s goal is to answer at least 90 percent of 911 calls within 15 seconds.
“With funding from the Mayor’s budget we were able to hire 10 new dispatchers over the last few months,” said Scott Freitag, SLC911 Director. “With the help of the police and fire departments, we also began a new training academy which put these trainees through hundreds of hours of real-life scenarios long before they even hit the floors.”
In January, Mayor Biskupski called on the city’s public safety agencies to collaborate on a plan to improve systems at SLC911, with the goal of reducing mandatory overtime at the agency.
“In an emergency, seconds count, and our 911 dispatchers are our first, first responders,” said Mayor Biskupski. “The changes at 911, which have resulted in these improvements, will help save lives and I am grateful the leadership and employees at the Bureau have collaborated to make a difference for our community.”
Along with hiring and training, SLC911 has been implementing programs to help build morale within the department, and soliciting feedback from dispatchers on ways to improve the overall work atmosphere. The average tenure at SLC911 is six years.
“Without a doubt, this is a tough job,” said Lisa Burnette, SLC911 Deputy Director, who has been overseeing morale within the bureau. “I’ve been on the phones, and I know our dispatchers are inundated with a lot of stress. We need to ensure we are doing what we can to help alleviate some of that anxiety—from pizza parties to mental health if necessary.”
SLC911 dispatchers handle approximately 660,482 calls per year, serving both Salt Lake City and Sandy.