Increased 911 hold times for some callers

- The Harris County Sheriff's Office is reminding residents to only call 911 for life-threatening emergencies that require immediate assistance. The Harris County Sheriff's Office says callers may experiences longer wait times due to outages and an increase in non-emergency calls.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office is asking residents to remain mindful to call 911 only for life-threatening emergencies that require immediate assistance from law enforcement, the fire department, or an ambulance.

Flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey forced the Sheriff’s Office’s Emergency Dispatch Center to relocate from downtown to the Greater Harris County 911 Emergency Center on the county’s northwest side. Still working in this temporary setup, Sheriff’s Office call takers are staffing the non-emergency line (713-221-6000) and 911.

Greater Harris County 911 has graciously accommodated Sheriff’s Office telecommunications personnel at their facility, providing a high level of technological support.

The transition, however, has coincided with an uptick in outages of the computer-aided dispatch system, which is not operated by Greater Harris County 911. When those outages occur, call takers must commu nicate with Sheriff’s Office dispatchers using hand-written call slips. Sheriff’s Office call takers have also reported an increase in non-emergency calls to 911.

These factors have contributed to an increase in 911 hold times for some callers.

Before Hurricane Harvey struck, Harris County was already in the process of transitioning to a new third-party provider for computer-aided dispatch services.

National Emergency Number Association standards require at least 90 percent of 911 calls to be answered within 10 seconds. Since transitioning to the temporary communications facility, the Sheriff’s Office has fallen short of that standard on occasion with average wait times reaching several minutes on some days.

In order to expedite the answering of 911 calls, the Sheriff’s Office has increased the number of call takers. To further minimize 911 wait times, the Sheriff’s Office is asking residents to be mindful of the following as they seek emergency response:

• Only call 911 for emergencies that require immediate response. For non-emergency situations that require a Sheriff’s Office response, please call 713-221-6000.
• Do not hang up when calling 911. Remain on hold until someone answers and stay on the line until the call taker advises you to hang up.
• Do your best to answer the operator’s questions clearly so that the correct emergency response and personnel are dispatched.

Click here for more tips on using 911.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Dispatch Center tentatively expects to return to its downtown facility in about two weeks. Construction of a new dispatch center in the East Aldine area is underway and is expected to open in the spring of 2019.

 

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