2NEWS Investigation: Tulsa 911 call delays

TULSA - In an emergency, 911 is the number to call. But Tulsa has seen a rise in delays of late, with callers waiting entire minutes before receiving assistance.

2NEWS looked into the problem, speaking first with Tulsa city councilor G.T. Bynum.

"I continue to hear from people about this," Bynum said. "I hear from constituents. I hear from former colleagues on the city council, certainly Channel 2 has been very active on this and making me aware of concerns you all have heard about."

He took those concerns to the council Thursday afternoon and asked the center's director what was behind the problem.

What we learned: it's a people problem, or lack thereof.

"We are needing to hire additional people and get them trained. We have hired several people," said 911 call center director Terry Baxter. "We're in the process of training the eight that we hired in January."

Three of the eight finished training this week.

Still councilors say they want an immediate fix. One way to do that is to make it so the non-emergency calls, like animal welfare, don't go to 911.

"And that can be a big impact on a daily basis, so that's something that if they would just point those calls some place else tomorrow, that would be an immediate impact on our operation," Baxter said.

One thought on how to do that is to staff the Mayor's Action Line 24-7.

"Because a lot of the calls that are going into 911 now are going in off hours that should be going into the Mayor's Action Line, which is the main customer service line for the city," Bynum said.

But getting it done fast isn't so easy.

"The bureaucracy at the city wants to wait, take time, make sure everything is perfect and we buy lots of expensive software systems," Bynum said.    

Bynum calls the problem a public safety issue and would like to see the city act quicker.

The center also has plans to hire six more operators.

We'll continue to follow the story.

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