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Austin first responders too slow to respond to 911 calls, new audit finds

Police, fire and emergency medical services all fell short of most of their response time goals in 2018, according to the report.

AUSTIN, Texas — A new audit from the Office of the City Auditor found several problems with 911 operations in Austin. 

Austin first responders missed most of their goals for how quickly they respond to 911 calls in 2018, according to the new audit published Wednesday night. 

The report highlights records kept from Austin Police Department, Austin Fire Department and Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services

Data collected from each agency shows all three departments fell short of many 2018 goals, such as how quickly units were dispatched and how quickly they arrived on the scene. 

The report does note all three departments met recommended goals for quickly answering 911 calls in 2018. Each of the three departments answered 911 calls in less than 10 seconds, which is a goal set by the National Emergency Number Association.

"Many of the missed goals related to the time it took for resources to arrive on the scene and involve factors outside of the direct control of communications staff," the report stated. "For example, arrival time at an emergency depends in large part on the location of the emergency in relation to available resources." 

RELATED: Dispatchers, 911 operators reflect on the job

Credit: Austin Office of the City Auditor
Austin police, fire and emergency medical services did not meet many of their goals for how quickly crews responded to incidents in 2018.

The new audit of Austin 911 operations also outlines problems with how each department reported 911 responses.

RELATED: Austin 911 call takers and dispatchers recognized for National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

AFD and EMS reports of response times also did not reflect the actual experience of someone who called 911, according to the audit report. The departments did not include the time it took for APD to answer the call and transfer it to them, so the reported response times are inaccurate. 

"Performance measures also did not align across departments," the report read. "The different measures make it difficult to compare performance across the three departments."

Credit: Austin Office of the City Auditor
When someone calls 911 in Austin, an Austin Police Department employee answers the 911 call, then sends the caller to the appropriate agency to dispatch units to the scene.

The new report from the Office of the City Auditor also found all three emergency response departments could improve 911 operations with better public education of the 911 process. Auditors also found several problems with the plans and practices in the event 911 operations are disrupted.

RELATED: UT Police testing Text-to-911 system

The Office of the City Auditor made four recommendations to managers of the departments. Management agreed with three of the responses but disagreed with a suggestion to add a new performance measure reflecting the total experience of a 911 caller. Management claimed implementing this suggestion would be too challenging because of current software. 

The audit also stated in fiscal year 2020, the three departments budgeted about $29 million and have about 330 communications staff members. Those resources are used to field about one million 911 calls and texts made in Austin every year. 

WATCH: Austin police shortage raises safety concerns


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