Miami Beach

Miami Beach

Miami Beach’s 911 center mostly satisfactory, county says

Miami Beach’s 911 center recently underwent an audit that revealed minor issues and a bit of good news for a vital department that has been the source of controversy lately.

An inspection by Miami-Dade County Police found the center’s 911 plan was out of date, and equipment to answer calls from people with hearing impairments had not been tested as recommended. The county also suggested that Miami Beach incorporate countywide maps in its system to track calls that might be mistakenly routed to the city, and recommended refresher training for call-takers and dispatchers.

Overall, however, Capt. George Perera of the Miami-Dade Police Communications Bureau said he was not concerned about the call center’s performance.

“They’re trying very hard to do the right thing,” Perera said.

The county found Miami Beach answered about 97 percent of all calls within 10 seconds during the average busiest time of the day, according to a draft audit. The figure relates to the city’s March numbers, which is when the county conducted its audit.

The emergency call center was the subject of news reports in January suggesting employees slept on the job. In another case, a dispatcher in March 2013 took 14 minutes to send help to a man’s house; Fire Rescue took an additional 10 minutes to arrive, and a 65-year old Venetian Islands resident died.

City Manager Jimmy Morales in January removed control of the call center from the police department and handed it to Charles Tear, a civilian who is the city’s new emergency manager.

Tear said the 911 center has “complied with everything” that the county audit suggested.

The city’s 911 plan, which was found to be out of date, provides general information like how many positions the center has, and what kind of equipment is used, Perera said. The plan is supposed to be reviewed every year, but Miami Beach had not done so, he said.

Tear said incorporating countywide maps might slow down the city’s computers. He said the department is considering system upgrades that may allow speedier access to the maps.

The call center’s biggest issue, said Perera, is recruiting and retaining employees. That problem is not unique to Miami Beach, though, given the high stress and long hours dispatchers and call-takers often work.

“It’s a problem that plagues the industry,” Perera said.

Follow @Cveiga on Twitter.

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