Hundreds of people who call 911 get put on hold during a typical day in Charlotte, says the Charlotte Observer. The city has hired more dispatchers to handle an escalating call volume fueled by the city’s growth and the rise of cell phone use. While wait times have decreased, the emergency call center fails to meet a timeliness standard recommended by a national emergency dispatch organization, an Observer analysis found. In Charlotte, callers are automatically put on hold when dispatchers can’t answer within 20 seconds. They typically hold another 20 seconds before a dispatcher picks up.
For some in Charlotte, the wait is much longer – especially for people who call at busy times. On July 4, one caller waited on hold for almost 7 minutes. On the last day of school in June, eight callers were on hold at 9:15 p.m. – all of them waiting more than three minutes for a dispatcher. Emergency call centers should answer 90 percent of calls within 10 seconds, says the National Emergency Number Association, the industry dispatch group that promotes research and training and recommends standards for answering calls. At least 12 states require call centers to meet the 10-second standard. North Carolina leaves it to local governments to decide how quickly they should answer calls. Charlotte’s goal is to answer 85 percent of calls within 30 seconds.