Officials working to properly staff San Francisco 911 dispatch center

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The staffing levels at the 911 dispatch center in San Francisco were exposed during last month's massive power outage.

Right now, there are 121 911 dispatchers employed, and that is not enough. As a result, San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin is calling for a hearing to determine how many more dispatchers are needed. "The city has a goal of answering emergency 911 calls within 10 seconds 90 percent of the time. We are woefully under that at about 74 percent," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, our number one priority is making sure our emergency call center is fully staffed, regardless of what amount of resources we have to put into it."

Report reveals San Francisco 911 dispatch center staffing shortage
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Officials are working on staffing enough employees at San Francisco's 911 dispatch center after last month's massive power outage.

When you need a police officer, you hope there is a dispatcher to take your call. But according to the San Francisco Examiner, the city needs more dispatchers. The Examiner reports 206 people hung up before their calls were answered in that first hour of the massive power outage in April.

Supervisor London Breed is quoted as saying that day was a wake-up call as there were 88,000 customers who lost power because of a fire at a PG&E substation.

RELATED: SF mayor promises thorough investigation following power outage

During the outage, there should have been 14 dispatchers on duty, but there were only 12 at the time. To handle the huge increase in calls, 60 should have been on duty, but only six more came in.

Officials said 40 more dispatchers are in training, right now. But, it's not realistic to think operators will be able to handle every call immediately in a major incident. "Our goal is to handle calls in a more normal setting and in the normal spike of a fire or car crash and then call back callers when something like this happens," Deputy Director for Emergency Communications Robert Smuts said.

Smuts told ABC7 News that 911 call centers aren't designed to answer every call during a huge emergency like an earthquake or a power outage, and said it would be helpful to have more dispatchers. "We are understaffed at the moment. We're responding to that with a lot of overtime. We are not currently meeting our service standards. We have 40 trainees who will help us get there, though," he said.
Peskin has called for a hearing to look into the 911 center response times and believes they need to hire at least 60 new dispatchers.

Officials don't think the 911 center will have enough employees until they finish hiring more staff next year.
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