Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thanking the behind-the-scenes life-savers

I often write about the heroics of our officers, but there’s another group of people who deserve recognition for daily saving lives in Kansas City: 911 calltakers and dispatchers. Without these dedicated individuals, police, firefighters and paramedics would never get to where they need to be to help people.

This is National Telecommunicator Appreciation Week, and our department is celebrating it today. It was by sheer coincidence, however, that today also was the day I heard a report from our Logistical Support Division commander on the performance of our calltakers and dispatchers. What I heard made me even more grateful for the work these men and women do.

First, our Communications Unit is down by 14 people, and due to budget restrictions, we have been unable to hire more. We are requiring all calltakers and dispatchers to work mandatory overtime. This is a strain on them and their families, and everyone in Kansas City should be grateful for their sacrifices. They have been short-staffed for more than a year and yet still did something amazing.

In 2007, 45.5 percent of all 911 callers in Kansas City got put on hold. Their average hold time was 48 seconds. And though the numbers of calltakers and dispatchers dwindled, by the end of 2009, just 23.2 percent of 911 callers were put on hold, and only for an average of 22.8 seconds. This reduction was achieved through a number of quality assurance measures.

Speaking of which, most people don’t know the quality assurance measures our department takes in terms of 911 calls. We have staff dedicated to listening to them to review the performance of calltakers and dispatchers. They dissect these calls to determine whether the calltakers and dispatchers are conforming to policy and meeting very high standards. I learned today that 14 members of our Communications Unit earned perfect scores throughout all of 2009. That is a remarkably hard thing to achieve, and I’m so proud of them.

So take some time today to thank the 911 calltakers and dispatchers who are the backbone of Kansas City’s public safety. Send a message to and I’ll be sure to pass it on to those dedicated men and women.