Call volumes, staffing issues proving problematic for Toronto 911 call centre

Click to play video: 'Report finds call volumes, staffing issues problematic for Toronto 911 call centre' Report finds call volumes, staffing issues problematic for Toronto 911 call centre
WATCH ABOVE: A report from Toronto’s auditor general points to issues with staffing and call volumes impacting wait times. Shallima Maharaj has more on the recommendations being made. – Jun 16, 2022

A new report from the city’s auditor general points to the need for increased staffing at Toronto’s 911 call centre in order to deal with longer wait times.

The 911 Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) is the first point of contact for individuals calling 911 for emergency assistance from fire, ambulance, and police services. It is operated by the Toronto Police.

Last year, the call centre fell short of its services level standard, which is to answer 90 per cent of calls within 15 seconds.  In fact, it met that goal on only 10 days last year.

The report states that 13,260 callers waited on the line for over a minute in 2021. 424 waited for more than four minutes.

Read more: Toronto city council’s review of paramedic staffing is dead on arrival

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Among the more than two dozen recommendations made in the report is ensuring more staff are in place, especially during peak periods.

Between 2018 and 2021, approximately 1.8 million average yearly calls for service were made. The audit found that 57 per cent of calls to 911 were not for emergency assistance.

Samantha Goldsilver says she found herself in a terrifying situation last month, when her 13-year-old daughter suddenly collapsed while they were out shopping.

“A voice answered ‘911 emergency,’ and I just started screaming my daughter had just collapsed,” she recalled. “Then there were words continuing from the other end, and then I realized it was a machine.”

In the end, she says a volunteer paramedic organization that happened to be in the area, came to her daughter’s aid first.

“Someone I was telling this story to recently said ‘You teach your kids, from the time they can talk, that if anything happens, you call 911.’ It’s sort of baked in that this is something you can count on.”

The auditor general’s report is slated to be discussed at a police services board meeting on June 22.

In a statement to Global News, the Toronto Police Service said it is “committed to continuing its collaboration with the City of Toronto, emergency services and community partners to align on these recommendations.”

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When it comes to communications services, it says a number of initiatives are underway to address some of the issues in the report. They include additional recruit classes, as well as extending the probationary period from 12 to 18 months to provide more support and training. A workplace wellbeing review is also underway.

Click to play video: 'Soaring demand in GTA for emergency services' Soaring demand in GTA for emergency services
Soaring demand in GTA for emergency services – Jun 22, 2022

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