Little Rock 911 Boss: ‘It’s Moving in the Right Direction’

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Smelling like smoke, Vicki Gutherie packs up what’s left of her daughter’s apartment after flames ripped through the downtown Little Rock home over the weekend.

“She called 911 at 10:10 and she said they picked up instantly,” says Gutherie.

Gutherie says the quick response by firefighters and 911 helped save most of the home.

“It’s moving in the right direction,” says Little Rock Police Captain Ty Tyrrell.

Tyrrell says the Communication Center is better today than in 2015, but his work isn’t done.

In 2015, a consulting firm submitted a report to the department about changes that need to be made to improve 911 services.

Officials say many changes have been made since the audit.

“The one thing dragging us down the most, gives us the most problems, is strength,” he says.

Tyrrell says staffing numbers remain about the same. A salary increase in 2017 helped keep better talent, but Tyrrell says they, like many other communication centers, are having trouble finding people to fill open seats.

Data shows:

  •   So far this year: 477,495 calls have been made to 911 or the non-emergency line with an average answer time of 10 seconds or less, something officials want to make shorter.
  •    In 2017: 608,825 calls made to 911 or the non-emergency line with an average answer time of 14 seconds.

“We know the direction to move, we’re just trying a number of different things to get us there,” says Tyrrell.

Tyrrell says 911 staff is not writing police anymore, they forward non-emergency reports to the department’s Telephone Reporting Unit and alarm companies will soon enter information into dispatch computers so alarm companies are not taking up phone lines.

“I’m the kind of guy that’s never happy until it’s perfect,” says Tyrrell.

While 911 works for an even stronger 2019, Gutherie says she has comfort knowing 911 is three digits away.

“It can mean the difference between life and death,” says Gutherie.

Police say training is being improved over the next year and 911 call takers will also be cross-trained as dispatchers which Tyrrell says will help staffing numbers.

The City of Little Rock Board of Directors also passed the purchase of a more than $4 million computer dispatching system, which is expected to be installed in 2020, it will track police cars and send the closest car to a call.

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