Things aren’t going great in San Francisco, with crime rampaging out of control as the city’s leaders either can’t or won’t deal with problems like open drug use, rampant homelessness, and constant shoplifting and retail theft, along with car break-ins.
In fact, the issues in the city are now so bad that it is struggling to even answer 911 calls in the aimed-for amount of time, with about a quarter of emergency calls taking more than 15 seconds for dispatchers to even pick up and answer, much less direct law enforcement resources and emergency services to the person needing help.
Such was reported by the Office of Emergency Management for the city. In its report on the matter, began by describing why the response time is important and what its goal for 911 call response time is, saying, “When San Franciscans call 911, they expect someone to answer quickly and help them in an emergency. The response rate of 911 calls represents the percent of calls answered within 15 seconds.”
Continuing, it notes, “The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management adopted a new national standard in 2019: 95% of all calls should be answered within 15 seconds. Before 2019, San Francisco used a standard from the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) that 90 percent of all emergency calls should be answered within 10 seconds.”
It came nowhere close to that goal. In October, only 72% of calls were answered within 15 seconds, down from 77% in September and August. In fact, the past years have been in the high 70s and low 80s, with the city not hitting the 95% figure since June of 2020.
Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, one veteran dispatcher, Valerie Tucker, said that the city is struggling to handle the constant crime and constant stream of calls that has characterized the post-Covid period for the city. She said, “It’s dire straits for sure around here, and it’s not getting any better. Most of us in the room are starting to (ask), is this worth it?”
Continuing, Tucker explained why that short time period is so important for saving lives and helping San Franciscans, telling the Chronicle, “In 15 seconds I can start CPR instructions, get NARCAN administered, give choking instructions to a new mom or dad. I can prevent a suicidal person from harming themselves because I say their name and they no longer feel so alone.”
Burt Wilson, another veteran dispatcher and head of the dispatcher’s union, said, “Police officers are more visual. Before I got this job I never thought of calling 911 or what a 911 dispatcher was.” He then added that the city leaders know it is a big problem but will likely not deal with it until it is too late and catastrophe comes from the slow dispatch phone time, saying, “They know it’s a problem. But until somebody important gets killed or hurt, they’re not going to address it.”
It remains to be seen if the city, which is trying to hire more dispatchers and improve hiring times, will be able to get the problem in order, or if the response time will continue its terrible trajectory and be another manifestation of the city’s continuing decline.
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