It Isn’t Just Police You Are Going To Wait For After Calling 911

In the once-great City of Chicago, you might wait a very long time from emergency medical attention. 2 Investigators: Ambulance Shortage, Patients At Risk

When somebody is shot (which happens all too frequently in Chicago) or is hit by a car, it can be critical to get them to the hospital as quickly as possible, especially if they are bleeding out. That can be a problem in Chicago.

One day recently in Chicago (not specified):

That day in question, there was a 19-minute response for an overdose; a 20-minute response for a child hit by a car and a 23-minute response for a high-risk pregnancy

One of the paramedics interviewed for the story says this kind of thing is a daily occurrence in Chicago. Three years ago, the city said they would by more equipment and hire more people, but so far that hasn’t happened.

“I absolutely believe that people have died already because ambulances couldn’t get there in time,” says one of the paramedics.

A good reason to learn basic first aid. [Hat Tip Second City Cop]


10 or 11 Minutes Is a Long Time to Wait After Calling 911

The average wait didn’t change that much, from my perspective. Response times worsen for Minneapolis police.

Between July and September, the department’s average reported response times for the most urgent 911 calls — “unstable scenes” with an imminent threat to life or property — were 10 minutes, 45 seconds, Minneapolis Police Department figures show. That’s 42 seconds longer than the same period last year and continues a steady lengthening of response times over the past four years.

It’s not a 10% difference, and cops say they are being encouraged to both spend more time at the scene of an incident and also spend more time out of their cars, the whole community policing thing, is making a difference in their response times. But it might also be making a difference in policing.

The best Minneapolis has ever done for priority 1 calls is 8 minutes flat, and that is still a long time to wait.

“When seconds count, police are minutes away.” That is a function of the way the system works, and not a dig at anyone. But the truth is, even if you CAN call 911 before bad things happen, you are going to be on your own for a while. Do you have plans for what you are going to do during those 8 minutes? Or 10 minutes? Or more? (That is the number for the downtown section of Minneapolis, some areas have a longer average wait.)

Where I live – which is out in the country – I figure that even if I can call 911, and a car is available it will probably be 10 minutes. Depends on where in the township the cars are at the time. (It’s basically a 10 minute drive to the grocery store.) But then I have a plan for what I will be doing until the cops arrive. (Look closely at the name of this blog, for a clue.)

I like wheelguns for the middle of the night. There are no springs to loose their spring. There are no feed jams to deal with at 3 AM, and with a speed loader or 2, are pretty good as first line of defense. Though not my first choice for concealed carry.

Calling 911 is a fine thing to do, if you can manage to do it before bad things happen. But even if you can, help is minutes away. You should have a plan for how you are going to spend those minutes.

24 Minutes Is a Long Time to Wait for 911 Response

Unless you are living under a rock, you probably know about Flint, Michigan’s water problems. But they have other problems too. Police say response times improving in Flint – WNEM TV 5

The root cause of most of the problems is budgetary woe

s and the poor handling/decision-making that resulted from a state take-over. This extends to the police department.

In January of 2017, average response time to a critical 911 call was 21 minutes. By July, that time had risen to 58 minutes. In October, the average was back down to 24 minutes, and while 24 is better than 58, it is still a long time to wait, if bad things are happening.

“The principle solution for the issue of response time is additional staffing and manpower. Our current staffing issues are also well known. The effect of the loss of hundreds of police positions over the last several years is clearly observable in our response times,” the department said. “We have already, and will continue to request more officers for the City of Flint Police Department. To date, these requests have not been filled.”

Calling 911 is a fine thing to do. Operators can dispatch fire, or emergency medical personnel, or police. But they won’t be there instantly, even if you can call them before bad things happen. But even if you don’t wait 24 minutes, you will wait. Minutes. That isn’t a dig against police, it is just the fact of the world we live in.

If calling 911 is the only thing you are prepared to do, I think you might want to reevaluate that strategy.

You Should Learn Basic First Aid

What will you do in the time between when you call 911 and when EMS arrives? Non-profit organization puts the tools for emergency first aid into civilian hands | KSNV

One to six minutes — that’s an average response time for many first responders.

But as time ticks by and a traumatic injury starts to bleed out, a lot can happen.

Do you know what to do? If not, you can definitely learn.

Basic first aid isn’t really complicated, but it does require a little training. The upside is, you can save a life if you ever find yourself in the position that requires you act.

“It’s not rocket science to teach what we teach, you know, we teach soccer moms, we teach military guys, we teach to anybody, anywhere, anytime,” said Weissman. “They’re real simple skills once you’ve been taught the skills. I think people get intimidated because they don’t know what to do, we’re trying to teach people what to do. We’re giving them the confidence that you can act.”

The Department of Homeland Security started with Stop the Bleed.

While you can find local training, the Red Cross used to be a good place to start. First Care Provider has a series of videos.

Calling 911: Expectation vs Reality

A lot of really bad things can happen while you are waiting for police to arrive after a 911 call. Peoria woman calls 911, waits 27 minutes for police; chief says they’re working on it |

27 minutes is bad. Is the standard response time of 12 minutes all that much better? A lot of bad things can happen in 12 minutes.

“The expectation is when you call 911 police need to come right away,” said Thornburg.

On that night, Thornburg waited 27 minutes before officers showed up at her door.

“I’m not happy at all,” she said. “There’s a lot of stuff that could have happened in 27 minutes.”

Calling 911 is a fine thing to do. It can send police, or fire, or emergency medical personnel to your location. But they won’t be there in an instant, so you should think about what you will do in the meantime. Me? I have several fire extinguishers around the house – one is in the kitchen where I might need it. And smoke detectors, of course. I also know basic first aid and have a reasonable first aid kit. I also have the means of self-defense at hand, in case of an intruder.

If all you are prepared to do is call 911, then you might be waiting for 12 or 27 minutes. What will you do in the meantime?

Public Stupidity Is an Issue

This linked article is an interesting look at the insanity that 911 centers – specifically San Francisco – have to deal with. I bet SF isn’t alone in dealing with the insanity. 4 in 10 calls to SF’s 911 aren’t emergencies – San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco’s 911 call center has been in the news because it isn’t meeting the “industry standards.” Lots of reasons, but burn-out and staff turnover are high on that list of reasons.

When 40% of the calls to 911 are NOT for emergencies, that just makes a bad situation worse. According to one woman who got fed up and quit…

“Staffing is an issue, but public stupidity is another issue. It makes me crazy.”

Is someone’s life in danger? Is your house burning down? Call 911. Did someone leave an old tire on the sidewalk? Not so much. At least TRY to figure out what is an emergency and what isn’t.

As an illustration, the graph above details the increasing number of calls made to the SF 911 center about homeless people that are NOT related to an emergency. You may think homeless people are annoying, but that doesn’t justify a call to 911. (Click on that image for a larger view.)

Hong said dispatchers have their “regulars.” A man named Charles calls every single day to report a homeless man sleeping outside his building.

I’m sure that is annoying. I’m equally sure that it’s not an emergency.

Calling 911 has its benefits and its problems. But when the public is stupid (and apparently getting more so) the problems get worse. A guy sleeping in front of your building, or a woman’s violent stalker trying to break down her door. Which do you think should get time from 911?

What If You Dialed 911 and No One Answered?

This is happening in Cincinnati, and in other places. 911 Outages Imperil Public Safety in Cincinnati and Elsewhere

According to an internal city document obtained by NBC News, there have been 10 911 outages since June of 2016. The latest one, just this summer, lasted three hours and 30 minutes.

Usually when I write about the problems with calling 911, the delays are in the minutes, not hours. 3 hours (or more) is a very long time when bad things are happening. It could literally be a lifetime.

The powers that be in Cincinnati trot out the standard (though at this point very lame) excuse that it is all the fault of cellphones.

“These 911 systems have been designed and built for landlines,” said Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black. “Now we’ve got the proliferation of cellphones.”

While the modern cellphone can be dated to 1983, they really didn’t show up everywhere until 1991 when generation 2 technology became available and sparked competition.

1991 was more than 25 years ago, and they are still blaming the cellphone for their incompetence. Sorry, but I don’t buy it.

Since they know that no one is going to buy that excuse, Harry Black tees up standard excuse number 2, “It’s not my fault.”

Black blames most of the trouble on a private company called Comtech that runs Cincinnati’s 911 system. “We’ve got a service provider at that level who’s not been as reliable and dependable as we’ve needed them to be,” Black said.

But that contract – if it was written by anyone who has ever seen any contract ever – would have performance clauses and what would happen if a given level of performance is not met. Like penalties and withheld fees all the way up to contract termination. Which is apparently the stage they’ve reached, because Cincinnati is taking over its own 911. (What could go wrong by putting the .gov in charge?)

And of course Cincinnati is not the only .gov entity that signed up with Comtech, and they are not the only folks having problems with them.

In Connecticut, officials replaced Comtech’s system with a new company after a three-hour 911 outage hit 52 call-taking sites. And in South Dakota this year, officials temporarily suspended payments to Comtech, saying the company was “slow to fix several recurring problems found within the system.

So how did Comtech get to be so big in the 911 “industry” if they have so many problems? They didn’t answer questions for the linked article, so who knows.

The final “suggestion” is to program your local police/fire numbers into your phone in case 911 isn’t working. Works only as long as you never leave home. 911 was introduced so that if I am visiting you and you have a heart attack, I don’t have to search around for the number for paramedics. That is not as fast as me just being able to call 911 wherever I go. “In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there’s a difference.”

Calling 911 is a fine thing to do in an emergency. It can send police, and fire, and emergency medical personnel to help with whatever you are facing. If what you are facing is a violent encounter, you may not be able to call 911 before bad things happen, but in any event, if the ONLY thing you are prepared to do is call 911, then you might have a problem, when that system breaks down.