Reporting Liz Collin
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The city of Minneapolis is making a change with how it deals with 911 calls. It comes almost two weeks after Minnesota’s worst workplace shooting.
At least four people called 911 from the scene of Accent Signage and never got through to a dispatcher.
In all, six people died in that attack on Sept. 27, including the gunman.
The numbers show it was a typical Thursday afternoon at the Minneapolis dispatch center — six 911 operators were working alongside seven dispatchers. That 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. time period in the afternoon is considered the busiest time of day for emergency calls. There were 65 other calls in that hour of time — 16 were related to the shooting.
In the more than 100-page police report, two Accent employees said they called 911 and it just kept ringing. One worker told how he stood next to a colleague who Andrew Engeldinger shot, dove under a saw to hide, and dialed for help and no one answered.
Heather Hunt is the director of Emergency Communications for the City of Minneapolis.
“We knew immediately what the situation there was and got the help started,” Hunt said.
Police arrived on scene five minutes after the first call to 911. The average response time to a call is more than eight minutes.
Even if someone calls 911 and doesn’t get through, a dispatcher will call back. If they don’t answer an officer is dispatched to the scene. That happened right away last month.
Now instead of a continued ring, if a call can’t be answered in 10 seconds, the caller will hear a recorded message urging the caller to stay on the line if it’s safe to do so.
It’s the same system that was in place before but taken away when dispatchers didn’t notice a difference.
It was decided again that a voice would be a better idea on the other line so callers don’t think they got the wrong number.
Another municipality can’t jump on and answer calls right now. Hunt says it will be at least four years until all 911 systems are connected in the state. The technology isn’t there to do that right now.