New possible delays: I-Team looks into what happens now when you call 911 in Cleveland


CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-Team has found what you can expect now when you call 911 from a cell phone in Cleveland, and it may mean, at times, waiting a little longer to actually be able to ask for help.

Cuyahoga County makes changes to 911 dispatch to speed up hold times

A new system took effect last week, so we reviewed some 911 call recordings and watched the clock.

Under the new arrangement, Cuyahoga County dispatchers will answer all cell phone 911 calls made in Cleveland, and then they will transfer the calls to the city 911 center.

On one call, after a shooting early Monday morning, a dispatcher asked, “What city is your emergency?”

A woman said, “Hi, I just got shot in my hand. I’m at 81st and Harvard.” The dispatcher then said, “Ma’am again, what city is your emergency?”

It took 23 seconds for the county dispatcher to answer the call and transfer it to the city. Then, it took another 10 seconds for a city dispatcher to answer.

WJW photo

Even then, the caller said, “I’m at 81st and Harvard.” The city dispatcher responded with, “I’m sorry. You said where was your location?”

County dispatchers took over answering the cell phone 911 calls last week since city dispatch didn’t always meet state standards for answering quickly enough.

We also reviewed two other calls after shooting incidents Sunday night and Monday morning.

We noticed one call transferred after 16 seconds, but the caller didn’t talk to a Cleveland dispatcher until 30 seconds had passed. And, we found another caller transferred in 10 seconds, and that caller spoke to a city dispatcher 13 seconds after that.

Just before the new system went into effect, we asked the county about answering calls quickly while still having to transfer them.

Cuyahoga County Chief of Special Operations Brandy Carney said, “Nobody wants to call 911 and not have another person quickly answer the phone.”

She added, “We are only asking where is the emergency? We’re verifying that location, and we’re transferring that call.”

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Meantime, we contacted two 911 callers transferred after shooting incidents. They did not respond to us.

We’ve reported the city of Cleveland has struggled with short-staffing in its dispatch center. And, multiple sources say, the city is currently short on people to handle your calls.

The county tells us it has been hiring more people so that its dispatch center now can handle the cell phone 911 calls. Those calls total up to 400,000 a year.


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