SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utah’s largest 911 call answering point is falling short, according to a new audit.
One of the biggest benchmarks the Utah Office of the Legislative Auditor General used to review Salt Lake Valley Emergency Communication Center (VECC) is the national standards for how quickly emergency calls should be answered.
Standards say 90% of calls made to 911 should be answered within 15 seconds and 95% should be answered within 20 seconds, according to the National Emergency Number Association.
In September 2020 alone, the audit found VECC answered 63.2% of its 911 calls within 20 seconds. While that number increased to 90.2% in January 2021, it remains below the national standards.
The report also highlights that a higher portion of 911 callers ended up waiting in VECC’s automated call queue in 2020 compared to 2019.
“When no call takers are available at VECC to answer emergency calls, the queue system automatically places emergency callers on hold where they hear a pre-recorded message telling them to wait for assistance,” the report explains.
In a letter from the Salt Lake Valley Emergency Communications, VECC officials tell the Auditor General’s Office that “we continue to take significant action to remedy our shortcomings outlined in the audit.”
They outline actions taken, like adopting a budget with a member fee increase of 12%, adopting performance standards that can be met within the existing budget, and establishing pay incentives for the Executive Director to achieve the adopted performance standards.
Meanwhile, auditors found Salt Lake City 911 was able to maintain its performance above the national benchmark, despite an increase in calls from 2019 and a loss of staffing.
A letter from the Salt Lake City 911 Communications Bureau says that while they started 2020 fully staffed, the difficulties of the year – the Magna earthquake, COVID-19, civil unrest targeting the Public Safety Building, and September’s hurricane-force winds -weighed heavy on its employees.
“Although SLC911 began the year fully staffed, by the end of the year, the dispatch center lost 27 employees, with 15 reporting mental health issues as the reason they had to leave SLC911,” the letter reads.
The auditor report recommends VECC’s Board of Trustees direct management to bring the call center’s performance in line with the national standards.