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Labor shortage is affecting emergency services response times

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

An ongoing labor shortage is to blame for longer response times for emergency services in both 911 dispatchers and Columbia Police Department.

The Columbia Police Department says they can not respond to a 911 call until the Boone County Joint Communication Services can patch the call through to a dispatcher.

Boone County Joint Communication Services says they are experiencing longer waiting periods due to an ongoing labor shortage.

Chad Martin, the Director of Boone County Joint Communication Services, said "we are operating at approximately half of our staffing level."

Martin said the department has specific goals they strive for when answering 911 calls, however, the percentage of calls that meet its goal has steadily decreased since 2019.

Martin said one of its goals is to answer 95% of 911 calls within 15 seconds

  • In 2019 90% of our 911 calls were answered within 15 seconds
  • In 2020 82% of our 911 calls were answered within 15 seconds
  • In 2021 80% of our 911 calls were answered within 15 seconds
  • In 2022, year to date, 75% of our 911 calls were answered within 15 seconds

Martin said their second goal is to answer 99% of 911 calls within 40 seconds

  • In 2019 96% of our 911 calls were answered within 40 seconds
  • In 2020 97% of our 911 calls were answered within 40 seconds
  • In 2021 95% of our 911 calls were answered within 40 seconds
  • In 2022, year to date, 95% of our 911 calls were answered within 40 seconds

Martin said "when incidents occur that cause multiple people to call 911 at the same time, answer times can be longer than usual. This is since we have a finite number of Emergency Telecommunicators answering calls, and some major incidents can quickly overwhelm our resources."

The Boone County Joint Communications Center website said if you call 911 and your call is placed in a waiting queue, you will receive a recorded message "informing you that you have reached 911 but no emergency telecommunicator is available to take your call." It's advised that if you experience this, you should not hang up unless you are in immediate danger.

The Columbia Police Department said they are experiencing a similar labor shortage issue, that requires them to prioritize which calls they respond to first.

Christian Tabak, with CPD, said, "The nature of a call for service may determine our response times. Calls for service are prioritized based on factors such as a crime in progress, potential danger, or the need to preserve life or respond to an incident involving domestic assault or children."

"Everyone's call deserves attention, but with our staffing shortage, it does mean there are situations where officers will first need to respond to dangerous or violent incidents before they are able to direct their attention to other calls," said Tabak.

The Columbia Police Department is looking for new officers to join the force, interested parties can apply here.

The Boone County Joint Communication Center is also looking for new telecommunicators, interest parties can apply here.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia
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Marina Diaz

Marina is a Multimedia Journalist for ABC 17 News, she is originally from Denver, Colorado. She went to Missouri Valley College where she played lacrosse and basketball, and anchored her school’s newscast.

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