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Call waiting: Legislative audit finds Utah’s largest emergency dispatch center is too slow

Utah’s largest emergency dispatch center isn’t meeting national standards, according to a recent legislative audit that looked at data from the past five years. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Utah’s largest emergency dispatch center isn’t meeting national standards. That’s according to a recent legislative audit that looked at data from the past five years.

Legislative audit says callers are left waiting

The standards regarding how fast dispatchers should answer calls are set by the National Emergency Number Association. The association has determined that dispatchers should answer 90% of their calls within 15 seconds and 95% of their calls within 20 seconds.

A legislative audit, released Tuesday, found the Salt Lake Valley Emergency Communications Center (VECC) is falling short of that mark. They say thousands of callers every year are forced to wait more than a minute in order to report their emergency.

Specifically, in 2019 alone, the report stated that 17,562 people calling 911 waited more than one minute before someone answered their call.

A potentially dangerous problem

In fact, in no single month over the past 5 years has the center met the national standards. The report is recommending that VECC set performance standards in hopes of improving 911 call answering times.

“In situations where people are seeking emergency assistance with police, fire, or medical needs, delayed response is both frustrating and potentially dangerous for callers,” the audit states.

The Utah Department of Health agrees with the audit and additionally would revise administrative rules to include staffing minimums.

VECC officials recognize the “weaknesses that are present,” according to a response letter signed by executive director Scott Ruf and Dan Petersen, chairperson of the Board of Trustees. According to them, officials have tried to fix the issues “well before this audit called out [the] problems.” 

The audit found the Beaver County Sheriff, San Juan County Sheriff, Weber Area 911 and Rich County Sheriff were also briefly out of compliance. Although, they all answered the vast majority of their calls within the 20-second threshold more than 90% of the time.