San Jose emergency officials to improve response times

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San Jose Police and Fire 911 emergency dispatchers are putting in lots of costly overtime but while they have improved considerably in recent years, response times are still not what they should be.

A 65-page city audit finds that the money spent on overtime would be enough to hire more than a dozen new dispatchers says City Auditor Sharon Erickson.

“We need a lot more boots on the ground, we need aggressive hiring of call takers but it does take a lot of time to train them,” Erickson said.

The audit makes several recommendations for improving the response to emergency calls, 95-percent of which are supposed to be answered within 15-seconds. San Jose is at roughly 90-percent.

The audit recommends the city improves the system for dealing with the estimated 40-percent of calls handled by dispatchers each day that are not true emergencies.

“We need technology and there are steps in the process that could be eliminated with technology that is readily available so it’s just a matter of investment,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said.

The audit calls for aggressive hiring and recruiting in an effort to relieve stress in what is an already stressful job of sending police and firefighters to emergencies.

The audit references dispatchers who are said to be suffering from exhaustion, lack of time with their families and low morale.

“Emergency response times when you think about it is one of the most critical services the city provides, dialing 911, that is how you get help,” Erickson said.

The audit report includes a joint statement from Police Chief Eddie Garcia and Fire Chief Robert Sapien, who said they agreed with most of the auditor’s recommendations but said some of them, like fixing glitches in the way non-emergency calls are routed to the right places, would take some time.

Meanwhile, the city will likely be looking to hire more dispatchers.

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