Washington, D.C.’s troubled 911 communications system has improved dramatically over the past year, with operators answering emergency calls so quickly that many callers “don’t even hear a ring,” says Mayor Anthony Williams, as quoted by the Post. Last month, operators answered 94 percent of emergency calls within five seconds, a substantial improvement from a year ago, when operators were meeting the five-second goal on just 64.5 percent of calls.
The improved performance has cut the number of callers who hang up in frustration without ever getting anyone on the line, Williams said. Last month, about 3 percent of 911 callers abandoned their attempts to contact city authorities, compared with 10 percent in September 2003. For years, the 911 system has drawn complaints as callers reported getting no answer, hearing a recording, or being put on hold. In January 2003, a 24-year-old man died in a house fire after police operators bungled calls about the blaze. The D.C. Council briefly blocked the renewal of Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey’s contract, in part, because of problems with 911.