MULTNOMAH COUNTY, Ore. (KPTV) - The Bureau of Emergency Communications is looking into solutions to address high call volumes that translate to long waits for 9-1-1 callers.
In November, 2020, the average wait for an answer when someone called 9-1-1 was 21 seconds, very close to the national standard of 20 seconds. But by May, 2021, the average wait had increased to 42 seconds, and reached 56 seconds by July.
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"This is completely unacceptable. I want to be able to provide service," said BOEC Director Bob Cozzie. "I'm a member of the community. I live in Multnomah County, and my family lives in this community."
Cozzie said call volume to BOEC increased by more than 20% from July, 2020 to July, 2021. In addition, more than a dozen people on the operations floor either retired, took leaves of absence, were promoted, or resigned.
"Looking back over the course of the history and the past year, it's really difficult to say what we would have done differently, or what could have been done differently," said Cozzie.
The bureau is looking into solutions. Cozzie said he'll propose the city's 3-1-1 program take on non-emergency and administrative calls, which account for just under half of BOEC's call volume. In addition, the bureau is looking to add an app-based web platform that uses artificial intelligence to triage and route requests for service.
Cozzie said some technology-based solutions could be in place as soon as November, but adding additional staff will take longer because the training and certification process for call takers can take up to two years.