Monday, July 11, 2011

Efficiency Comparison

PSAP stands for "Public Safety Access Point": a term-of-art in the emergency communications field that refers to the call center where the phone is answered when someone calls 911.  Lincoln's PSAP is the City of Lincoln Emergency Communications Center (popularly known as the 911 Center).  It is one of the three public safety entities that is now my responsibility. The 911 Center manager, Julie Righter, provided me with some interesting data that was collected by another midwest PSAP.  Julie knows that I'm something of a data hound, and I find it useful to compare with other service providers as a benchmark for how we are doing. In this comparison, Lincoln's center fares very well.  That's good: we want to continue to strive to provide good efficiency, and good value to the taxpayers.

I am intrigued by the metric of "Dispatchers per 911 Calls", where Lincoln ranks in the middle of the pack, while we are at the top in "Dispatchers per Administrative Calls."  I think this reflects an interesting difference in Lincoln.  Citizens in our community--more than most--understand that you only call 911 in an emergency, and have been conditioned to call the non-emergency number, 402.441.6000 in other circumstances.  A lot of communities struggle with this a great deal.  While our personnel still get some real doozies calling 911, on balance we have much less of a problem in this regard than most others.  Hence, we have a high number of co-called administrative calls in comparison to 911 calls.  That, too, is very good.


Anonymous said...

The more work a dispatcher has to deal with has an added amout of stress. I now have a greater understanding of the high amount of calls and tasks these people have. Opps and misdirections are or should be expected when a worker is expected to handle so much. I consider the level of importance prior to placing a call to dispatch. Broken down cars in traffic, person drunk and laying in park, or someone loitering around a bike rack gets dispatch no buisness from me.
Public service messages always say: call the police, we will "take a look at it"
Those messages should say:
Police service is for emergency or crime that is at this moment.
If someone took an I-Pod off the kitchen table, the caller should be told to file a report at the station, on Monday

Steve said...

I think one of the factors affecting the choice citizens make on whether to call 911, or the non-emergency number, is their past experience. I don't call all that much, but it seems to me that in the past, calling the non-emergency number was frustrating and often fruitless. I even got the impression at times, that the person answering the phone would have preferred I had called 911, even though I didn't consider it an emergency call. Recently, I have had quicker and more professional responses to my calls by the dispatchers, as well as a better result when officers were dispatched. As long as people can get their problems solved through the non-emergency number, they will continue to use it. If not, they'll upgrade their problems to emergency status in hopes of getting better service.

Steve said...


While the situations you use as examples may not qualify as emergencies, I would hope that concerned citizens would call police, and I'm not so sure 911 wouldn't be the proper call. A car broken down in traffic could end up causing a serious accident. A drunk person laying in a park may be dying of alcohol poisoning, or may have some other medical problem such as diabetes. And why wait until a bicycle is stolen and not likely to be recovered if you think someone might be considering such an action? It could be some pedophile waiting for a victim. I think, given what I've heard from the chief say in the past, even he would prefer you call and let the police decide if some action is warranted or not.

Watchful said...

@Jim J - While I appreciate your concern about the workload on dispatchers and officers, I would suggest a different perspective. In the instance of the car, what if it was your mother, without her cell phone? Taking your position, no one would call until an available officer happened upon it. A car broken down in the middle of the street is a hazard to other motorists who may be surprised when they encounter and have to navigate around it. The driver may open a door in traffic or wander around it, kicking tires in hopes of sparking life into it for another couple of miles. Both are dangerous. The "drunk" might be suffering some other ailment. Diabetic reaction or recent assault pehaps. >> IF << you are not comfortable approaching a situation (maybe helping/assessing a situation)which you observe, why not call the police or fire departments? You can always ask them... Do you know about the taffic light out at... If not, tell them. It is far better to go check on it than the many other possible negative outcomes. All calls are prioritized. If officers are busy on higher priority calls, they will check when time allows. Parking complaints are handled this way, all the time. If an injury accident, smoke plume, shooting, fire, robbery, assault or other more important incident is happening, call 911. Otherwise, call the 6000 number. Director - your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

In about 1980 I was in Houston, TX and I had a theft of about $2,000 of equipment from my truck. It had happened in broad daylight while I was in a Pizza Hut eating lunch with two other drivers. My truck was parked at an angle where I could see the front of the tractor but not the headache rack and tool boxes. I discovered the theft when the three of us returned to my tractor to bobtail back to the terminal.I went in to the Pizza Hut and dialed 911. After eight or nine rings an operator answered and her first words were" Is this a life or death situation?" I told her, "No. It is to report a theft". I was told to call the Harris County Sheriff's number which she did give me. I went back to the terminal and tried calling them from there. After two days of busy signals I finally sent a FAX to report the theft and they FAXed me back all the Theft report forms I needed to file an insurance claim. I did find my chains in a Pawn Shop and I took care of the problem without any assistance from the Houston Police or Harris County Sheriff's department. We are blessed to live in Lincoln!

Gun Nut

Steve said...


Not to rub it in, but I recall an incident some time ago where I was contacted by a gentleman on amateur radio who seemed to me to be totally wasted on something. I presumed that he was drunk. He wanted me to tell him how to get home, but he couldn't tell me where he was, or where he lived. At that point, I had little sympathy for him. As I later found out, he was a diabetic who may have died, lost out in the country, had someone else who knew of his condition not heard the call and organized a search for him.

The point is, that you can't always be sure of your initial impression of a situation. If something seems out of order, you should either look into it yourself, or call someone to check on it.

Anonymous said...

Good points on this. If I would call on the incidents both have used as examples, I would guess I would contact dispatch about five times a day. My job is very much mobile so I am out and about in the city some 1,500 miles a month. In the course of a year that is about as many calls to dispatch as I drive in a month, 1,500
Steve has a point I use often. I check myself on some things and on others I let the other half a million cell phones take care of it.
Parking? Call dispatch with a parking and you get another number to call. It is privitized service and that is well outside my intrest. When was the last time a fire plug was needed by LFR and was blocked by a car parked in front? I would say never. The last time I called on a stalled vehicle in traffic, I was asked "What is wrong with it" to which I promptly gave the dispatcher my mechanics phone number.
While I have empathy for those in a trouble situation and would help in an event that needed "right now" action. A time comes when the number of situations you see as "strange" really are just that. Strange.
Director's comments have people standing in line and a crowed has gathered as large as the C. Anthony spectators. Nancy Grace, wherrrr arrrr youuuuu!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that I'd put too much reliance on the statistics. All the areas cited in the spreadsheets of population centers that rank less then Nebraska in actually population.

While Golden Valley is in a large county of Minnesota, the poplualtion is around 35-40,000, quite a difference then that of Lincoln itself.

Plus how many of the agencies cited in the states are a full service PSAP, that is, dispatching, fire, law enforcement and medical as Lincoln does. I'm will to bet some of the agencies cited are single point PSAP's, that is dispatching only police or fire, but not both.

And whats with the South Dakota state radio system being cited? Is that also a full service PSAP? If one state agency is shown, why not factor in NSP to that spreadsheet?

I just don't see the importance in these statistics are presented, because they are not even that relevant in comparison in my mind.

Just sayin'

Tom Casady said...

Point well taken. This data was collected by the Red River Regional Dispatch Center in Fargo, hence the lean towards the Dakotas. It looks like Lincoln was on the outer fringe of the geographic area they looked at. I posted this data because it was interesting and available: it just landed in my inbox.

If I was doing my own survey and data collection, I'd be interested in cities of similar size to Lincoln: perhaps Des Moines, Madison, Aurora, Overland Park, Lubbock, Garland, Fort Wayne, Scottsdale, etc..