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Dispatch Delays

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  • Dispatch Delays

    I live in a town where the emergency services has experienced up to 10 minute delays in being dispatched for calls through a central dispatch services.

    Are there many emergency service companies out there that experience similar delays with central dispatch services? Is there a standard or guideline that outlines an acceptable timeframe that a call must be dispatched from the time a call is received? What is an acceptable tolerance for delays in these type dispatch services?

  • #2
    Your first resource to educate yourself with nationally accepted dispatch standard would be the great folks with APCO. They're sort of like the NFPA of the dispatching world.
    Career Fire Captain
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    Never taking for granted that I'm privileged enough to have the greatest job in the world!


    • #3
      It would be good to know where the actual delay takes place too - was the original call made to cellular 911 for example, which then had to be routed to the correct dispatch agency....

      Was there a problem getting information from a caller to get the correct location of the call so the correct agency(ies) could be dispatched?

      If it is an automatic alarm - is the monitoring company relaying the call to Emergency Services BEFORE calling hte home/business owner?.......are they calling the right jurisdiction?

      Does it actually take 10 minutes to get a call entered into a computer so it can be dispatched?......

      There are so many ways a call can be delayed - many of htem are not the fault of the dispatch center.....

      Now, if a priority call is entered and just sits there, that IS a problem - could be a training problem, staffing problem (not enough dispatchers to handle call volume).....

      When I was a fire/EMS dispatcher, we would generally get calls out within a minute or two of receiving them - oftentimes if it was a priority - such as working fire, etc - one dispatcher would still be on the phone with the caller while another was dispatching the call.....

      I do recall having to sit on calls once for a jurisdiction - but that was due to unforseen/almost catastrophic circumstances - a suspected tornado went though the jurisdiction and all units were out - including M/A companies.....had to give run-downs of what was in queue to the Chief and go from there.....


      • #4
        I just re-read the original post - is the problem with a COMMERCIAL monitoring company? If so, who are they calling forst on an alarm? In NYS - companies are required to notify Emergency Services FIRST....although not all do - I dispatched a working fire one night, called in my a passer-by (through the roof and visible from streets away)......about 20 MINUTES into the call the alarm company finally called with the fire alarm - they had been trying to get a homeowner on the phone......I had to tell them to keep trying as the homeowner didn't have a home any more. That was over a $1 million loss if I remember correctly.......


        • #5
          Originally posted by Jamie3 View Post
          I live in a town where the emergency services has experienced up to 10 minute delays in being dispatched for calls through a central dispatch services.
          What does the contract wit the service require? Are they required to comply with NFPA 1221?
          "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"
          The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.


          • #6
            at my center all fire and ems calls are in the system and kicked out for dispatch withing 30 seconds of them being submitted, if a call reaches a minute in pending theres a problem...

            10 minutes is a ridiculous amount of time for a fire/ems call to be pending, but there isnt enough info in the OP to make a proper judgement of if its a legitimate problem.


            • #7
              I can't tell if he is talking his dispatch center, or a commercial alarm company notifying dispatch. If it is a commercial alarm company, it is no surprise. We had a building burn down, totally gutted, and while rolling hose, dispatched radioed to inform us the alarm company just called in an activated smoke detector...
              Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.


              • #8
                Delayed Dispatch

                While we are on this subject, you may want to find out who is actually in charge of your 911 system. Rather than talk to different people, find out the "one" person who is in charge.

                In my county, when there is a no or delayed dispatched, we cannot find anyone at the county level (who operates the county 911 system) to address the situation.

                Actually, in my county, the county 911 system refuses to dispatch two of the fire departments. You have to call directly to the fire chief to get the service. The county has arbitrarily rules on what services it dispatches. The unwritten policies and laws that run the 911 system are run on a political agenda.

                Until I recently referered to our 911 system as the 666 system, there would be no one at the county level to address any concerns.

                If you ask a county commissioner, the sheriff, 911 coordinator or anyone involved with the county 911 system, about a problem with the 911 system, you get stupid responses. Nobody is responsible for the system, but happily milks the $1.00 per landline and cell phone fee funding.

                Again, if you are having problems with your 911 system, find that "one" person that is responsible for it and bring it to their attention.


                • #9
                  Thanks for all the input. As an FYI, about 2 yrs ago the township has contracted with a central 911 dispatch center who also dispatches for a number of other agencies in the area. We are trying to determine where the delays may be coming from so we can address them with the dispatch center. Your input and advice has brought up some new avenues which we can look into to help understand and minimize dispatch delays.

                  We will definitly take a look at the APCO website for some information.

                  With regards to callers: there doesn't seem to be a specific pattern of delays based on where the calls are coming from; whether a commercial central alarm station, resident home, cell phone, etc. We have experienced delays from all types of callers. Obviously we have no control over when the initial call is made to the dispatch center; but in reviewing the call sheets, the delays that raise concern are from the time of the original call was made to dispatch to the time the emergency services are dispatched.

                  All of you comments raise valid points and questions. From your responses, we have been able to develop a list of questions which we can begin to address those who are in charge at the dispatch center. As mentioned, our hope is to be able to minimize any further delays with the system.

                  Thanks again.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ridebmxnc View Post
                    at my center all fire and ems calls are in the system and kicked out for dispatch withing 30 seconds of them being submitted, if a call reaches a minute in pending theres a problem...

                    10 minutes is a ridiculous amount of time for a fire/ems call to be pending, but there isnt enough info in the OP to make a proper judgement of if its a legitimate problem.
                    Not of you have NUA! No Units Available. I have seen time where this has happened. You ask companies if they can clear to make another call. Mutual aid is also out of the question as if you are short or out of companies, so are they!
                    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

                    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers


                    • #11
                      As a dispatcher in a central 911 center, I'll put in my 2 cents... We dispatch for our county of nearly 400,000 residents. We handle police, fire and EMS calls for over 40 agencies. We are required to get the calls dispatched in 30 seconds or less. What makes it hard sometimes is that more than 70% of our calls are from cellular phones. Of these cell calls, only half of them come into our center as "phase 2" which gives a geo-verified location from where the call is coming from. If the call does not come in as a phase 2 call, we have to rely on the callers information and then verify the location before we dispatch.

                      Another real pain for us is VOIP... like Vonage. These calls go directly to a national call center and then get forwarded to the 911 center for that location. There is a huge delay in this type of call. There isn't a location like you'd get from a land line call or a cell call... it usually comes in on one of our administrative lines, with no information. We are one of the more advanced 911 centers in Ohio. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to have a very basic 911 system, like most of the country.

                      the best thing to do is go to the center that dispatches your department and find out how they operate. You have a vested interest in it because your fire department's ISO rating can be affected by the way the call center operates.

                      Like i said, just my 2 cents...


                      • #12
                        To clarify a few points. Most of the country does not have Basic 911; most of the country has Enhanced 911.

                        My center receives VOIP calls on our 911 trunks and we receive ANI/ALI info on all of these calls. I'm not sure why any center would still be receiving their VOIP calls from a national relay center. Although they will route there occasionally when the VOIP customer has not set up their info properly.

                        NFPA standards would like to see "emergency" calls initiated in less than 60 seconds 90% of the time. It use to be 95% but I think they finally realized that was unrealistic. Plus I'd be curious to now if any Telecommunicators are involved in the NFPA decision making process of dispatch standards....

                        Regardless, as you said you've received some good points to follow up on.
                        Someone once told me that time is a predator that stalks us all our lives. But maybe time is also a companion who goes with us on our journey, and reminds us to cherish the moments of our lives because they will never come again.


                        • #13
                          We use priority dispatch for police,fire and medical. I will be the first to say that the police and fire slow me down. I understand that it gets all the questions answered but if you have the experience and knowledge, you know the questions. Couple this with a joe blow candidate off the street with no sense of urgency and long delays happen. Get the pay up and get QUALITY people in the centers or spend $100K with priority dispatch to cover your a** and limit your liability of your subpar people.


                          • #14
                            [QUOTE=10 minutes is a ridiculous amount of time for a fire/ems call to be pending, but there isnt enough info in the OP to make a proper judgement of if its a legitimate problem.[/QUOTE]

                            i completely agree.. i know that if my house caught on fire or i got into a car accident and heard my pager go off ten minutes later i would call the 911 center and let them know there are problems


                            • #15

                              Sorry about the late post, but I wanted to throw in my 2 cents.

                              Shortly after I retired from a FD Comm. Center, which BTW supplied Suppression and Rescue to a large county area and some mutual aid.

                              An off-probation Dispatcher took a call and left it hanging on the screen, didn't transmit it to the Lead Dispatcher, ring the alert bell or do anything at all!

                              What she did do, was go to the Restroom, take care of her "business" and powder her nose, so when she got back in the room, there was a significant delay in the call, and THEN she treated it like a new call, sent it over, and then later went into the CAD and altered the original times.

                              What alerted somebody else in the room, was a relative called back and the time frame reported just did not add up, so the Supervisor was tipped off, and after an investigation into the call, she was written up on charges, had a disciplinary hearing and was fired!

                              Happily the patient was alright and reached the Hospital AOK, but given the circumstances, it could have been different, say a Code Blue or a GSW, it might of turned out differently.


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