Oversight in place to safeguard against Austin 911 hang ups

911 call center (KXAN)
911 call center (KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — After accusations that a Houston 911 operator hung up on thousands of emergency calls, emergency officials in Travis County outlined safeguards in Central Texas.

Austin police track the length of individual calls, according to a department spokesperson. Someone who is hanging up on people regularly should start to show a lower call times than data for an operator typically shows. Supervisors can also live monitor calls and they randomly review call takers. Finally, APD will investigate citizen complaints of unauthorized hangups.

Still, when you call in to 911 you are dialing a center filled with call takers, who handle different kinds of calls. In Travis County, an Austin police call taker will typically answer your call. If you need an ambulance, you will then get transferred to Austin-Travis County EMS.

“We’re looking for professionals that have a servant’s heart, that want to take care of people,” said ATCEMS Division Chief Adam Johnson, referring to the recruiting process. “In EMS all of our communications medics are certified as EMTs and paramedics as well. So, we’re looking for people that are in the business of taking care of others.”

All calls get recorded. Johnson says staff review about five to six percent of calls.

“Some of that is just randomly selected calls that we get through reports and then we review 100 percent of our highest [severity] calls, things like cardiac arrest, and child birth, we review every single one of those,” said Johnson.

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