LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – What happens when you call 911 for help and no one answers?
Ring duration data obtained through an open records request shows that many calls take longer than two minutes to answer.
In 2019, only five calls had ring times longer than two minutes. So far in 2022, the Lexington E-911 has received more than 1,000 calls with ring durations longer than two minutes. There have been 19 reports of extended ring times filed with E-911.
Jonelle Patton, director of the Lexington E-911 center, tells us that current staffing shortages are partly to blame.
All of this, as the city experiences a period of violence that pushes the city’s homicide record to breaking point. So, as more dispatchers and operators continue to leave the profession, what can city leaders do to keep them?
“We are 911, we save lives. so it’s really important for us to be aware of those numbers and how we can do better overall,” Patton said.
Patton says there are about 21 openings for telephonists and dispatchers.
“If we had ten call takers and there are twenty incoming calls, those ten other calls are going to be delayed and that happens frequently throughout the day,” Patton said.
As the city struggles to hire new employees, current employees must pick up the slack.
“It means additional, residual stress for the people who are already doing the work,” Patton said.
Due to staffing issues, E-911 employees work eight mandatory overtime hours per week.
“They work three eight-hour shifts and two twelve-hour shifts,” Patton said.
Patton says there are times when only one operator is working. Dispatchers and supervisors can also take calls, but this is not their main job.
She says that despite staffing issues, Lexington E-911 remains open 24/7.
“You might have to wait a little longer, but we’re here and ready to meet the need,” Patton said.
With long ring durations, callers often find themselves hanging up and dialing 911 again when in desperate need. Patton recommends staying on the line, even if she keeps ringing and ringing.
But what are they doing to fix the problem?
Patton says they are taking steps to recruit more people, such as a $3,000 hiring bonus and retaining current employees through a $4,000 retention bonus. Also say that they are looking for ways to help current employees manage stress and prevent burnout to increase job retention.
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