By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Since we talk about crime/safety issues often, we also often hear about people’s experiences with calling for help when something happens. Often the discussion is about interaction with calltakers/dispatchers and why they seem curt sometimes; we’ve covered community-group discussions about how 911 works and best practices for citizens calling something in (you can find that info online here).
But lately, anecdotally, we’ve heard more about people being on hold waiting to talk to someone – and today, we’ve found out a likely factor: SPD’s Communications Center – “the primary answering point for all police, fire, and medical emergencies within the city limits” – is not in its usual quarters.
We just talked with Det. Patrick Michaud in SPD Public Affairs to find out more.
The communications center is in the middle of what its commander, Capt. Ron Rasmussen, calls “the first major renovation of the Comm Center since 1999, when (it) was built.” The renovation work is expected to continue until the end of May. In the meantime, he said in an internal memo we obtained from Public Affairs, “we have fewer 911 lines in this center, which may affect peak calling-load periods.” The backup center also has “fewer dispatch consoles.”
When the renovation work is done, Det. Michaud told WSB, the center will have more lines and more capacity to serve Seattle’s growing population, but in the short run, if you find yourself on hold, this might be why. It doesn’t change the priority levels attached to calls, so if you find yourself needing to call, the best advice is to be as clear as you can about what’s happening right now (which is the general advice anyway).
As noted toward the end of this Seattle Times report on 911-response times, adding lines was among the recommendations in an independent review of SPD operations.
We haven’t yet found specific documents about the renovation project and its budget, but are working on that and will update with any additional information.