published Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Emergency 911 center improves call times

Dial 911 in Hamilton County, and your call will be answered — most likely before the second ring.

That’s a huge improvement over five years ago, and 9-1-1 Emergency Communication District Executive Director John Stuermer says during an emergency, speed and accuracy are lifesavers.

In 2012, 96 percent of the 215,276 emergency calls dispatchers received were answered before the second ring. That’s 191,251 residents in need who were immediately connected with first responders. Five years earlier, before the 26 various emergency services in Hamilton County unified emergency communications under one banner, that number was closer to 73 percent of 246,934 emergency calls.

The improvement has resulted in fewer calls being abandoned, when the caller hangs up before the call is answered.

Last year, nearly 1 percent, or 176 callers, hung up after hearing one or more rings. In 2007, 9,535 calls were abandoned by callers after one ring. That’s nearly 10,000 residents in duress who gave up because no one answered their calls for help.

Stuermer credited the uptick in efficiency with getting all 130 dispatchers under one authority and one training standard.

Before the consolidation, dispatchers who worked for the Chattanooga Police Department answered to the city. Sheriff’s office dispatchers worked for the sheriff. It was that way for 26 different agencies, and Stuermer said none of them had regular, standardized training. Getting everyone familiar with the entire county was a challenge, he said.

“What we immediately had to do was bring everyone up to the same standard, under the same authority,” Stuermer said. “We had people who worked for the city of Chattanooga who had never been over the bridge to Hixson.”

Ultimately, Stuermer said successes are due to his staff of emergency dispatchers.

“If we don’t get our jobs done here, first responders don’t get sent out there,” Stuermer said.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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