How Long Does It Take for your 911 Call to Be Answered?
This was the question the NFPA technical committee responsible for writing NFPA 1225, Standard for Emergency services Communications, asked in the last revision cycle, while reviewing the existing language on this subject. A public safety answering/access point (PSAP) refers to the call center where emergency calls for the police, fire department or EMS are received from mobile or landline callers/subscribers. The 2022 edition of NFPA 1225 calls out two time-standards for dispatch:
- Answer requests for emergency assistance within 10 seconds 90% of the time
- Process the request for emergency assistance within 60 seconds 90% of the time.
The standard defines “Call Answering” as the time from when the call is initiated by the caller to when it is answered by a PSAP. “Call Processing” is defined by the standard as the time from when the call is answered to when the first Emergency Response Unit (ERU) is dispatched.
The NFPA Technical Committee knew these old provisions were based on the experience of the technical committee members and there was no research to suggest that these times fit the physical limitations of a communication center. Further, Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) would often question the validity of these provisions.
Enter: The Fire Protection Research Foundation.
This research request came from the NFPA 1225 Technical Committee and the NFPA Research Fund was able to provide the required funding to dig into these questions further. The goal of this project is to collect, analyze and summarize the call answer and processing time interval data in response to the fire and EMS events (excluding law enforcement event data) from a wide range of PSAP dispatch centers (i.e. large, small, urban, rural etc.) in the United States.
The research contractor, Public Consulting Group, performed a literature review to identify common concerns for PSAPs including staffing limitations, insufficient funding, and technological issues. PCG developed a survey questionnaire to circulate to PSAPs throughout the US, conducted a statistical analysis on the data collected and compiled all the findings and summary observations into a final report titled: “An Analysis of Public Safety Call Answering and event Processing Times”. The one-page summary provides key takeaways from the research report. There are over 6,000 active PSAPs in the US. 52 organizations submitted the requested data and 47 of those datasets are in the format consistent with the needs of this study. While this data represents less than one percent of PSAPs, in analyzing the data that was collected, PSAPs were only able to achieve the minimum time standards set by NFPA 1225, 40-50 percent of the time. It was noted that PSAPs who stated that they follow a written standard were compliant significantly more often than those who did not. Specifically, agencies that stated they follow the times described in NFPA 1225 (previously NFPA 1221, Standard for the Installation, Maintenance, and Use of Emergency Services Communications Systems, had 65% of their calls found to be compliant, versus only 27% compliance in the calls processed by agencies not following an NFPA standard. Analyzing these records, the 90th percentile for call processing times is more than twice the recommended time specified in NFPA 1225. However, records from agencies that follow written standards are compliant more than twice as often as the records from agencies without a standard. Agencies following NFPA Standards are identified to be most successful in this study.
Interested in reading the report, download it here.
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