Late to the call: JSO failing to meet state standard answering 911 calls

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When every second counts, you rely on 911 to answer the call. But an Action News Jax Investigation revealed the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office call center failed to meet state standards in March and April.

Julie Franswick and her daughter were recently on one of those calls. Action News Jax reported last week that her son’s pregnant girlfriend was in need of medical attention. Franswick said she watched as the seconds turned to a minute and she eventually hung up.

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“I was in shock. You always assume 911 is going to be there,” she said. “That could be somebody’s life. Luckily, ours was not a life or death situation. But it could’ve been.”

State 911 standards require call centers have enough staff so that 90% of calls are answered within 10 seconds. In April, JSO records showed the average ring time was nearly double at 19.83 seconds. In March, the average was 16.54.

In January 2021, an Action News Jax investigation revealed the average ring time was 10.18 seconds.

RELATED STORY: Action News Jax Investigates: Delay in JSO dispatch answering 911 calls

We reached out to JSO to learn what has led to the increase, but so far we have not heard back.

The National Emergency Number Association can’t speak specifically to Jacksonville but said nationally there is a shortage of 911 dispatchers.

Brian Fontes, the CEO of NENA, said a number of things have led to the shortage, including low pay and high stress. The level of stress was heightened during the pandemic.

“911 professionals work in a close, enclosed environment. That created a lot of additional stress.”

NENA serves as an advocate for 911 professionals, from health to education.

Fontes said 911 callers should stay on the line. Hanging up will only lose your spot in line and risk a longer wait time. It can also clog up the system for other callers trying to get through.

According to JSO, there were 834 “abandoned calls” in March and 907 in April.

JSO will loop in Jacksonville Fire Rescue dispatchers if needed for a call. In October last year, Action News Jax reported that the department was looking to fill 12 positions. They answer about 2100 calls in a day and expect the number of calls to continue increasing.