Tulsa's 911 Emergency Dispatch Center doubles call workers after 2News investigation

TULSA - Cutting down call time -- that's the hope at Tulsa's 911 Emergency Dispatch Center.

A previous 2News investigation found a dangerous delay and it prompted city leaders and city councilors to look for change. Now, the 911 Center is doubling its call workers.

Hiring more staff is a sigh of relief for one caller, who waited nearly four minutes for an answer after shots rang out.

"It sounds very much like gun shots went off," Jillian Ihloff told a 911 operator. She was on hold two minutes before reaching an operator.

Ihloff heard shots again, called again, and waited -- this time for four minutes.

In May, we found it took Tulsa's operators about 26 seconds to answer police calls. The national wait time is 10 seconds.

"Our responsibility is to ensure that we have sufficient personnel on staff to handle the volume of 911 calls," said 911 center director Terry Baxter. "We try to do that, but that volume goes up and down at all times of the day."

Since the investigation, Baxter has hired 16 operators, placing five to seven workers on the floor at all times, instead of the three-worker minimum.

"That was something I was really glad about," Ihloff said. "That they didn't just say, 'This is something we're looking into,' or something like that. They actually said this is a problem we're going to get this fixed."

And officials say the hiring influx isn't over. The center could handle 8 more workers, specifically bilingual, officials say.

Baxter says residents are still clogging up the lines with non-emergency calls, something that has slowed response times in the past.

"We need to do a better job of educating people what to do in emergency situations, where there's maybe no direct impact on them," he said.

Speaking on the hirings, Baxter said, "ultimately that will pay off. Unfortunately it takes time."

 The center has also increased pay to more than $13 an hour.

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