Columbia Joint Communications looks to quicken 911 response times

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COLUMBIA - To ensure the quickest response time, Columbia's Public Safety Joint Communications said it would like to speed up its hiring process.

Currently, the department does not have enough operators to answer the high volume of calls it receives during accidents. The department wants to hire more people to fill this need, but is having a difficult time because of its lengthy hiring process.

"In a process that takes as long as ours, sometimes we lose good, qualified candidates because they find employment and are offered employment before we can offer them the position," Interim Operations Manager Joe Piper said.

Applicants currently must pass a written test. If they pass the test, they're then invited back on a separate date for an in-person interview. Piper said having the test and initial interview on the same day would streamline the process.

The need for 911 call dispatchers has been an ongoing problem in the area. Piper said anything to get more qualified applicants in the door is helpful because the demand is there.

The use of cell phones has created a higher demand for operators especially when there is an accident in the area. 

Detective Tom O'Sullivan with Boone County Sheriff's Department said large amounts of people call in to report accidents, which floods the phone lines. Piper said there are currently not enough dispatchers to take the amount of calls in that type of situation.

The center is in the process of training 10 people, but Piper said it is still looking to hire more. 

Piper said he would like to meet national standard answer times which are:

  • 95 percent of all calls answered within 15 seconds
  • 99 percent of all calls answered within 40 seconds

Answer times for Columbia are: 

  • 89 percent of all calls answered within 15 seconds
  • 96.5 percent of all calls answered within 40 seconds