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47 Minutes on Hold with 9-1-1 Emergency

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Can we say embarrassing? The LA Times reports in an investigation that there are major problems with cell phone 9-1-1 emergency calls.

Elementary school counselor Brad Edwards said he waited eight harrowing minutes last year before a dispatcher picked up his cell call about a boy who had collapsed on a Los Angeles schoolyard and begun foaming from the mouth. "The fire station is just a few blocks away. I could have run there faster than it took them to help me," said Edwards, adding that the boy survived.

The long report available on looks in depth at the surge of calls and low staff levels:
The problems are aggravated by call surges -- such as when multiple motorists call in about the same accident -- staffing shortages at 911 dispatch centers, and technological hurdles. Cell calls are more easily interrupted or lost and take longer to handle, officials say, reducing the number of calls each dispatcher can field. [snip]

CHP officials blame, in part, the behavior of cellphone users. With the proliferation of such phones, they say, they are getting an increased proportion of non-emergency calls on the 911 line, asking, for instance, about traffic and weather conditions. Others call by mistake.


With the jump in cell calls, staffing at larger 911 dispatch centers across the state is often failing to keep pace. Despite adding positions, the CHP has vacancy rates of more than 30% in Orange, San Diego and Ventura counties. The LAPD is down 43 dispatchers, or 8% of its authorized dispatch force.

And what is the short term solution for citizens according to officials? Use a land line.
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