As a former Allegheny County and city of Pittsburgh 911 dispatcher, I believe that the merging of the city and county call-taking process places public safety at great risk (“County, City Services Merge for 911 Calls,” Aug. 21). The 911 center is understaffed and underfunded. During peak call volumes callers often experience delays beyond the state standards.
The state requires 911 calls to be answered within 10 seconds of the call, 90 percent of the time. The city call-taking unit routinely met this standard both when we were city of Pittsburgh employees and after our merger into the Allegheny County 911 center. However, the county call-taking unit — because it has never been properly staffed — often fails to meet this standard. In addition, county call takers are required to dispatch field units simultaneously. The city, due to high call volumes, has always had designated dispatchers. Having dedicated call takers and dedicated dispatchers is the industry’s best-practice standard.
Combining the two units is not going to fix the problem or delays or make the system any more efficient. The additional call volumes placed on the city units is going to add more stress on workers whose job is already one of the most stressful occupations. Lawmakers in Harrisburg are to blame because they refuse to properly fund our 911 systems. The issue of 911 being underfunded, understaffed, with high turnover among employees due to poor work conditions, is a problem in every county across Pennsylvania as well as many 911 operations across the country.