Lack of staffing, public outreach mentioned in audit of city's 911 operations

SAPD plans to roll out PSAs later this month

SAN ANTONIO – An internal audit of the city's 911 operations revealed both good and bad news Tuesday.

The San Antonio Police Department's 911 abandoned call rate was lower last year than it had been in several years, dropping to an average of 17.1 percent for the entire year.

The rate had spiked at over 25 percent as recently as November 2015, according to previous figures provided by SAPD.

However, the department should do more to educate the public on how to properly use 911 and needs to take steps to ensure call center employees complete mandated security training, city auditor Kevin Barthold told the audit committee during a presentation at city hall Tuesday morning.

The audit, launched last summer according to city officials, also found 911 call taker staffing levels were not high enough to meet call demand.

SAPD has already taken several steps to correct the issues, hiring more than two-dozen emergency call takers last year. 

SAPD assistant director Steven Baum said additional call takers will be finished with training later this spring.

The department is also planning to roll out a series of public service announcements later this month educating the public on how to properly call 911.

Related content: Caller behavior, possible system error contributes to 'abandoned' 911 call rate, SAPD says

Baum said people have a tendency to hang up if they accidentally dial 911, causing delays, since call takers are mandated to call them back.

The audit also recommended SAPD widen its response time definition of a life-threatening event to include all incidents in which a person has a gun as well as domestic violence situations.

The audit also pointed out a number of areas of recommended improvement for emergency calls to the fire department.

The audit found the San Antonio Fire Department's use of uniform employees to staff the call center was "costly to the city."

The average total cost of staffing the call center with a uniform SAFD employee is two and a half times higher than an SAPD civilian call taker, according to figures provided by the city Tuesday.