Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Falk announces new automated non-emergency answering system

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announced the implementation of new technology in its 911 Center to better prioritize and handle incoming non-emergency calls at a press conference Tuesday.

A release from Falk noted that based on the findings of an audit by Matrix Consulting Group, 72 percent of calls received and answered by the 911 Center are non-emergency, non-911 calls.

To better address this misuse of the center’s resources and abilities, new “auto-attendant” technology will direct incoming callers to an automated system that will provide a range of options to callers.


This is in hopes that 911 dispatchers will not be preoccupied with giving directions or information on winter parking when they could be responding to 911 calls, Dane County 911 Director John Dejung said.

Dejung added there would be a 10 percent reduction in the number of calls dispatchers would answer and process. The automated attendant will not be employed when callers dial 911, it would only do so with the center’s non-emergency number or numbers that are forwarded to the center.

The automated attendant will have options available in English, Spanish and a choice for the hard-of-hearing.

“We’ve been working with the Sheriff’s Office, Madison Police and Madison Fire since October…they’re ready to go,” Dejung said.

According to figures provided by the Dane County Public Safety Communications Center, the center received 432,594 total incoming calls in 2009, 161,517 of which were 911 calls.

Falk said 13 recommendations were made in the Matrix audit ranging from hiring additional staff, renovating the center itself and implementing the automated attendant technology.

The new technology, the statement said, was funded with a rare $60,000 mid-year budget amendment.

Dane County Medical Director Paul Stiegler, who instructs the 911 Center dispatchers and is one of the few physicians in the country to teach dispatchers, was enthusiastic that the new technology would allow the county’s dispatchers to respond quickly and efficiently to 911 calls.

“This has been a great program for us,” Stiegler said. “This is going to help give more time to our call-taker dispatchers.”

Dejung said, on average, Dane County’s dispatchers respond to 911 calls in a single ring. The county release said this response time was better than the national average.

The renovations to the 911 Center include 22 new workstations. In all, the renovations total $1.3 million.

“Over the last year, we’ve budgeted and spent around $6 million to make sure we can have the best 911 center we can offer to residents of Dane County,” Falk said.

Dejung said in a release to Falk that to fulfill the audit’s call for increased staffing, 10 applicants were hired in March 2009; five of those remain in the county.

Ten additional applicants were hired in Sept. 2009, nine of which remain. All told, 65 of the 71 positions are filled. Another eight are expected to be hired yet this month.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported that only a matter of hours after the announcement, the 911 Board voted to postpone the implementation of the automated attendant program after the city of Madison objected to the stipulation that the center would not dispatch parking enforcement officers to calls requesting their assistance.

Madison officials claimed they want to make the program more well known to the public before implementing it, WSJ reported.

Dejung said approximately .21 percent of the calls that are received by the 911 Center required sworn officers to respond to the scene.

Following the board’s vote, County Executive Kathleen Falk decided to go ahead with the Feb. 20 implementation of the program, claiming the decision not to implement the program having a “major fiscal impact”, WSJ reported.

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