Called 911 and ended up on hold? This might be why

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.

10 Replies to "Called 911 and ended up on hold? This might be why"

  • Kimbee2 April 20, 2016 (3:55 pm)

    It concerns me to read that 911 dispatch lines have been temporarily reduced. Seems to me the ability to maintain the existing capacity during this transition could have been possible?

  • Mike April 20, 2016 (4:25 pm)

    If only there was a new age system that could be used….hmmmmm  

  • A. April 20, 2016 (4:51 pm)

    That is just poor planning on their part. The fact that someone may die because of a slower than normal response time is irresponsible. 

  • dale April 20, 2016 (9:11 pm)

    Okay, that is alarming. Basic services. Why does government exist again if they cant or wont respond to emergencies? Im troubled by this. Something to do with clarification of what their duties are. Some Chief should have a feather removed. 

  • ScubaFrog April 20, 2016 (9:57 pm)

    That’s awful.  I’ve had to call 911 before, a life was on the line.  Thankfully they responded quickly.

    I couldn’t imagine being placed on hold.  that’s terrifying to imagine…  huh.

  • SeattleGrrl April 21, 2016 (1:04 am)

    Every time my wife or I have called 911 in the past two years (suspected burglary, suspected homeless overdose, threatening person, medical emergency), we have sat on hold for at least a minute or even longer. Thank god none of those times turned out to be life-threatening, but if they had been… a minute can make a difference.

  • Darryll April 21, 2016 (1:32 am)

    Bad planning, bad prioritization. This looks bad on SPD and sends a pretty bad message to citizens and criminals alike.

  • Jissy April 21, 2016 (9:40 am)

    Got put on hold last 4th of July while reporting a fire some revelers started with fireworks — I was gobsmacked!!!  It’s very lucky the wind wasn’t blowing.

    • Tim May 3, 2016 (6:53 pm)

      Technologically I see no reason SPD can’t have an option to be transferred to the fire department’s 911 line if on hold. Hopefully people just needing the police department wouldn’t abuse the option.

  • Wsgal April 21, 2016 (1:43 pm)

    I called this morning to report car prowl registration, title, and personal info taken from glove box right across the street from where a ar was stolen from a driveway last week. Sayin hold 37 minutes and finally HAD to hang up. Guess I shouldn’t hope for extra patrols to come down my street at night. 

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