CMPD blames post-pandemic staffing shortages for longer waits when calling 911

CHARLOTTE — When people call 911, they expect a quick answer from a live person. However, Channel 9 uncovered that is not always the case.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said over the past year, only 60% of 911 calls were answered within 10 seconds.

That’s down from the 91% Channel 9 reported when investigating this issue a year and a half ago.

911 calls in Charlotte are filtered through a queue at a dispatch center, but sometimes dispatchers are too busy to answer them immediately.

Russel Rason said he called 911 a couple of Saturdays ago to report a gas leak inside his home in the Cotswold neighborhood.

Callers who are not answered immediately typically will hear: “Please do not hang up. This is the 911 emergency line. Your call will be answered in the order it was received.”

“My first reaction was, I can’t believe this, to be put on hold, but then to repetitively get that same recording. If I had not hung up it may have been quicker, but still, as you point out, if you were having a heart attack or your house was on fire,” said Ranson.

Ranson said he hung up the phone and a dispatcher eventually called him back 11 minutes later.

He said after crews came out to repair the leak, he started telling his neighbors about his experience with 911.

“I got a whole lot of responses of people saying that this isn’t unusual, that they have experienced the same thing,” said Ranson.

This is an issue that Channel 9 has been covering for years.

This past summer, a similar thing happened to a couple who said they called 911 during a medical emergency. Another woman said she got the same recording while a man was chasing her.

City Council member Dimple Ajmera said this has been on their radar. “Absolutely, it is very frustrating. Unacceptable.”

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said this issue comes down to industry-wide post-pandemic staffing shortages.

CMPD said it is currently short 20 telecommunicators out of 126 available positions. They also say more people than ever are calling 911.

“This has been a problem for a minute. Why hasn’t it gotten better? It’s only gotten worse?” Channel 9 reporter Dan Matics asked councilmember Ajmera. Ajmera replied, “Yeah, I have to agree with you that it has to get better, right? There’s continued pressure from the council to address this issue and address this challenge.”

The industry standard is for 90% of 911 calls to be answered within 10 seconds

City leaders said per state law, it now takes a lot longer to train dispatchers. To combat this problem, the city has offered salary increases to current telecommunications, as well as bonuses increased from $2,000 to $4,000.

(WATCH BELOW: 9 Investigates: 911 calls sent to recording instead of dispatcher)

Dan Matics

Dan Matics, wsoctv.com

Dan is a reporter and anchor for Channel 9.