As concerns mount regarding delays and errors with the Madison 911 Call Center, city and county officials are attempting to find a resolution to solve the problems.

Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 9, who serves as the 911 Board Chairman, said there have been delays in the time it takes to process calls and dispatch police as well as errors regarding where and how many resources and personnel are sent in response to emergencies.

“We hear service providers, the police, the EMS and the EMTs complaining. We also hear the fire chiefs and police chiefs complaining because of these errors,” Skidmore said. “Constituents haven’t said much because they don’t know a whole lot about what’s going on.”

John Dejung, Dane County emergency number professional, said new software, implemented in April 2013, was causing the issues. He said while many improvements to the computer-aided dispatch system have been accomplished, many more need to be completed.

Dejung said more than 100 software “tweaks” will be made in the next 30 to 45 days as the latest software release is implemented. He said the City of Madison is improving the automatic vehicle locations software that feeds location data to CAD, as well as geographic information systems and mapping software.

“The errors have caused some delays, some confusion and some frustration but fortunately they have not led to a loss of life,” Dejung said.

Dejung said weekly meetings between the city and county personnel have centered around efforts to improve the call center and have been the topic of conversation since before the implementation of the newest software.

However, Skidmore said he feels he’s seen more talk than action.

“The county who owns and manages this system needs to acknowledge that there are problems and address them,” Skidmore said. “Right now they are saying that [the problems] are minor and will work them out eventually.”

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said in a letter to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi that the 911 Call Center is processing calls at a rate three times slower than the agreed upon national standard.

Soglin said it was critical that the dispatch center met guidelines.

“The standards were established as a guideline to ensure that rescue services are received in time to potentially save a life. When these guidelines are not met, the health and safety of the entire community is at risk,” Soglin said.

Soglin cited more than 30 instances where both victims and emergency personnel were put at risk. He said one instance occurred when police were uninformed about the characteristics of an alleged gunman, putting their lives at risk.

Dejung said Soglin’s examples are misleading in the bigger scheme of things. He said the Call Center receives more than 1,000 calls a day that require processing with one-third requiring dispatch, making the 32 errors seem small in comparison.

Soglin said there is no room for error when it comes to the safety of the public and emergency personnel.

“These issues need to be immediately addressed to ensure that the citizens of Madison receive the utmost (and agreed upon) level of care,” Soglin said.

[Photo by flickr user Esparta]

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