CINCINNATI -- Hamilton County Commissioners voted to absorb the city's 911 dispatch operations Wednesday after a 9 On Your Side I-Team report spurred local leaders to reevaluate the city and county's policies.
Commissioner Greg Hartmann's resolution in support of the consolidation of the Hamilton County Communications Center and the City of Cincinnati Emergency Communications Center was approved unanimously. Hartmann's proposal comes after an I-Team report found that some 911 operators in Cincinnati have no or only partial medical training amid a city budget crunch that has left a hiring freeze on the Emergency Communications Center (ECC), which runs the city's 911 operations.
In Hamilton County's 911 center, it's a much different story: Everyone who answers 911 calls is a certified Emergency Medical Dispatcher.
"The recent public concerns about the City Communication Center's staffing levels and emergency response times are troubling, but provide an opportunity to reexamine how we provide 911 service in Hamilton County," Commissioner Hartmann said at the meeting.
Not only are Hamilton County's dispatchers properly trained, but their response times are 400 percent better. In Hamilton County, 19 times out of 20, a dispatcher will answer within 10 seconds. In Cincinnati, one in five calls takes 10 seconds or longer for a dispatcher to pick up.
To get to other waiting calls, dispatchers said they were told by their supervisors not to stay on the line if they are not trained to provide pre-arrival instructions.
"All Hamilton County residents, including those in the city of Cincinnati, deserve to have confidence in the service they receive each time they call 911," said Commissioner Hartmann.
The passing of Hartmann's proposal means a conversation with Cincinnati will start. The county can't take over the city's 911 operations unless the city approves it.
The manager of the ECC came before Cincinnati City Council Thursday following the commissioner's vote, telling council that the number of vacancies at the ECC has risen to 29.
"The way we've learned about the issues that may exist at the call center I find unfortunate," Councilmember Wendell Young said. "I would really rather have learned that from our administration. I don't know when I may have to call 911, and I don't want my call disconnected, I don't want my call answered by someone who can not help. I will admit I'm very troubled about what appears to be the status of our call center, but I have not heard what we can do in the short term. And I will tell you Ms. Kelly, people working 12 hours plus scares me."
The city manager's office reacted immediately by asking council to lift the hiring freeze on the ECC so the 29 vacant positions can be filled as soon as possible.
To read the I-Team's full report about the city's 911 operations, go to http://www.wcpo.com/dpp/news/local_news/investigations/i-team-is-911-in-the-city-of-cincinnati-a-game-of-roulette.