MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis 911 employees say changes have been made after a WCCO Investigation showed emergency calls were taking minutes to answer.
For more than four months, WCCO exposed complaints from callers and 911 staff. In some cases, people were found waiting more than 3 minutes for their calls to be answered.
One of many dispatchers to blow the whistle months ago was Michelle Swenson. She believes Minneapolis 911 is now moving in the right direction.
“It is getting better,” she said.
Since January, WCCO has exposed dozens of 911 calls taking a minute or more to answer. One caller waited 3:20 for someone to pick up.
During the times we checked, there were two operators on the floor to answer phones. Now, there are consistently five, sometimes as many as seven operators, because management has posted mandatory overtime for employees to fill those morning shifts.
“People aren’t waiting for their calls to be answered like they used to,” Swenson said. “Calls are getting picked up right away when we have staffing as it should be.”
Despite Mayor Betsy Hodges repeatedly telling WCCO there isn’t a problem, Blong Yang, who chairs the city’s public safety committee, believes what we’ve shown proves there is a problem, and he said it’s a top priority to fix it.
“The folks responsible for making policies are working really hard to right the ship and make things better,” he said.
The 911 director must now regularly report back to the committee on calls that take any longer than one minute to answer and the committee will consider adding more money to the 911 budget this summer to hire more staff.
Dispatchers like Swenson say that it’s what they’ve wanted all along. They are hoping for permanent changes so they can get people help as quickly as possible.
“I’m glad they are finally paying attention,” she said. “It’s unfortunate it got this far.”
While there has been staff added to the morning hours, 911 staff say no staff has been added overnight.
Minneapolis also spent more than $45,000 for an outside agency to help improve the morale at Minneapolis 911.