National standards say that operators should answer 95 percent of all emergency 911 calls within 20 seconds. But operators in New Orleans are not meeting that mark. The City Council took up the issue on Wednesday.
Reporter Charles Maldonado of The Lens says that after your call goes to an operator at the police department's 911 call center, the operator either alerts a police dispatcher or transfers the call to the fire department or EMS, depending on the type of emergency. If all of the operators are busy with other emergencies, the call goes into a queue... and the phone keeps ringing.
That wait has been getting longer in New Orleans. 911 operators here fail to answer 15 percent of emergency calls within 20 seconds. A year ago, they were missing the mark only 5 percent of the time.
They may be busy because they're taking non-emergency calls. Off-duty police officers call the 911 center to check in for their moonlighting assignments. Police chief Ronal Serpas says that doing it that way helps the department keep track of officers.
The Orleans Parish Communications District runs the call center. Its director says NOPD needs more operators than the 36 it has now. NOPD has been authorized for 19 new hires, and says it's interviewing candidates.