CLEVELAND (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team has uncovered how the Cleveland 911 system broke down on a busy night when one caller waited on hold for 30 minutes.
We’re also asking, could it happen again?
Weeks ago, the I-Team revealed a woman called 911 on July 4 in Cleveland and spent a half-hour on hold. Now, records show 600 emergency calls not answered at all and short staffing in dispatch.
After watching fireworks, Kristen Allen called 911 about a highway incident and she ended up on hold for 30 minutes.
She reacted to the I-Team’s new findings by saying, “I’m appalled. This is just absolutely absurd.”
“We can’t have the residents of Cleveland calling 911 and their calls go unanswered. It sends the wrong message,” Allen said.
Records show in just six hours the night of July 4, 621 Cleveland emergency calls were “abandoned.” All of those callers decided on their own to hang up before dispatch answered.
When Allen finally got through after waiting on hold, a call-taker told her, “Everybody calls about fireworks, so it ties up our entire phone lines.”
The I-Team also checked who was there to answer the phones. Records show the 911 center that night was very short-staffed.
In fact, three call-takers even had been forced to work overtime for a few hours to cover gaps. However, they couldn’t cover the entire night and they were gone before the 30-minute 911 call.
The police union says it has hounded the city for years to hire more people in dispatch.
“We’ve been screaming about this for a long time,” Union President Jeff Follmer said. “Should be a continuous list going year-round, 365 days, a listing for employment.”
The chief’s office says dispatch has positions for 125 people, but right now there are openings for 21. The police department says more people will be hired this month.
Still, Allen says the city should do whatever it takes to prevent what happened July 4.
“We have to do better. There is no excuse,” she said.
This comes to light not long after the I-Team showed you Cuyahoga County set up a new system for handling 911 calls from cell phones, saying the city often did not meet state standards for answering calls quickly.