N.O. 911 call center may get more funds to improve performance

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - City Council members are proposing a consent amendment that would reallocate as much as $1.5 million to the 911 call center.

The move is expected to improve the center by increasing staff and making call-taking more efficient. Council President Jason Williams said constituents have long lamented call center performance.

"What I heard from the community members over and over again were harrowing stories about 911, long wait times, disconnections and situations in which the phone calls just went unanswered," Williams said.

The consent amendment is expected to fix that by increasing the number of people currently taking calls from 55 to as many as 70, adding more dispatchers, and more than doubling the amount of supervisors on the staff.

"Right now there's not enough of them. We have one supervisor per shift, which means if that person calls in sick, there are no supervisors. So we must devote resources to this area so we can attract qualified 911 operators," Williams said.

Williams noted that the call-takers are some of the lowest-paid in the region compared to neighboring parishes that often take far fewer calls and can make as much as $10,000 more per year.

Councilwoman Susan Guidry said the money would help improve the call center as it prepares for a consolidation program that will increase efficiency and allow call-takers to accept calls for fire, police and EMS.

"We're sitting in budget listening to the Orleans Parish Communication District personnel, we realize we have got to staff up going into that or we will be setting it up to fail," Guidry said.

The Orleans Parish Communication District has already purchased the new software needed for the consolidation, and Terry Ebbert, a member of the 911 Commission Board, said that money will go a long way to helping the center answer 95 percent of calls within 20 seconds.

"The first level, the first door to our response time, is call-takers, is 911, is dispatchers," Williams said.

But Ebbert points out, that even with a more efficient and effective call center, police response times won't increase in the field if there aren't enough officers to respond to calls.

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