Beach 911 director responds to WTKR investigation on wait times, vacancies

Posted at 6:02 PM, Aug 16, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-16 19:27:05-04

Virginia Beach, Va. - After a NewsChannel 3 investigation revealed calls in queue at the Virginia Beach 911 call center are common, Emergency Communications and Citizen Services Director Athena Plummer outlined how they are working to change it.

"We've had a bit of challenge lately," said Plummer.  "That's being very honest and very transparent."

While records show the average 911 call wait time over the last year was between two and 38 seconds, documents obtained by NewsChannel 3 revealed some calls have been in queue for up to nine minutes.

Plummer admits that part of the problem is the nearly two dozen dispatcher vacancies.

Investigative reporter Jessica Larche said "It appears that you all are understaffed, the dispatchers are overworked, and there doesn't seem to be a sense of urgency to fix that problem."

Plummer replied, "There is a sense of urgency."

Plummer pointed to eight new dispatcher trainees that started Friday.  She also said they're working on a multi-year plan to increase dispatcher numbers.  Thanks to budget increases, she said they'll have three training academies next year instead of two.

Plummer said in addition to staff vacancies, call center technology plays a role in call queues.

"The current 911 system wasn't built to handle the number of mobile calls that are received," she said.  "I could have 20 call takers there sometimes and someone may still go in queue.  That's the reality we're facing, but we're investing in new technology that will help us."

She said the new technology should be hitting the floor later this year.

You can start applying now for the next training academy that starts in January.  Under job type, select "Public Safety Emergency Telecommunicator - January 2014 Academy".