AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department Emergency Communications Department’s current goal is to answer 90% of 911 calls within 10 seconds.

Last month, 75.76% of calls were answered within 10 seconds, according to Lt. Kenneth Murphy, the head of emergency communications. A breakdown of those values year-to-date are in the graph below.

In 2019, Murphy said 911 operators answered 99% of calls within 10 seconds.

Month-to-date, data Murphy shared with us shows 6,311 calls to 911 were abandoned – meaning callers hung up before someone answered the phone. During that same time period in 2019, only 346 calls were abandoned.

“You know, behind these numbers are the people who are coming in every day working,” said Commander Eric Miesse.

The department said the slowing answer times are due to staff shortages. He said there are currently 45 operator vacancies out of 105 positions and 21 dispatcher vacancies out of 75 positions.

Operators take the initial incoming 911 calls. Dispatchers communicate with the officers in the field.

“She’s worked 28 hours of overtime already this week,” said Miesse, referring to one of the 911 operators on the floor when we spoke with him. “We just don’t have the staff and we’re struggling to get people to apply for the job.”

Murphy said the department has upped its presence on social media and at job fairs to fill the spots. Emergency communications have also partnered up with the police training academy to bring more people in.

“Our recruiting team will go out and speak with those who didn’t pass the physical fitness test to see if they’re interested in becoming a telecommunicator,” he said.

The City of Austin announced pay raises in May for emergency telecommunicators after a third party completed a salary analysis.

  • 70% – 100 employees saw an increase of 5-12%
  • 20% – 29 employees saw between a 1-4% increase
  • 10% – 14 employees saw no increase due to their current salary being over market

City Manager Spencer Cronk also announced an up-to $1,500 stipend for sworn, regular and temporary employees who have worked with the city since July 17, 2021.

A memo released by the City of Austin Thursday outlined the proposal for new median pay for dispatchers and 911 operators.

City of Austin Memo - Emergency Communications pay
City of Austin Memo – Emergency Communications pay

The final decision on that pay scale will come later this year when the budget is approved.

“They want to do everything they can to help the community, to help the citizens of Austin,” said Commander Miesse. “I’m so proud of them.”