911 Dispatch Delays

Heidi Zemach for SCN –

Police_CapHave you ever tried dialing 911, hoping for emergency assistance, and had to wait longer than you wanted for service? Recently some complaints about the delay reached the city administration. City Manager Jim Hunt advised residents that if they want quick attention, they can call the police department’s business number directly at 224-3338.

“Our 911 calls are routed through a PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) in Soldotna,” explained City Police Lt. Louis “Butch” Tiner. The delays occur when Seward calls are answered by the Soldotna Public Safety Communication Center.  The Soldotna dispatchers don’t always pick up if they receive a Seward area call, he said. However, in many cases, calls are answered in Soldotna.  The reasons; the system can’t distinguish whether the call is coming from inside, or outside the city limits or the call is from a cellular phone.

SPD Lieutenant Louis Tiner  at a City Council Meeting. Heidi Zemach file photo.

SPD Lieutenant Louis Tiner at a City Council Meeting. Heidi Zemach file photo.



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When the Soldotna Communication Center sees a 911 call coming from the Seward area, and the system cannot determine the exact location of the call, the call is answered and the caller is asked for their location and the nature of the emergency.  If it is determined that the caller is calling from inside the City of Seward however, the caller is routed to Seward Dispatch.  If the caller is calling from outside the City and the nature is a medical or fire emergency south of Mile 38 Seward Highway, the caller is routed to Seward Dispatch.  If the caller is calling from outside the City limits and needs law enforcement, the call is routed to the Alaska State Troopers.

Seward residents may feel that they are better off calling the Seward Police business line directly. The problem with this is the Seward Dispatch is trained that 911 calls and radio transmissions from law enforcement officers in the field take priority over business line calls, Tiner said.  The delay in calls being answered by Soldotna and then routed to Seward may not be as long a delay as the Seward Dispatch answering priority calls before the business line.

To recap, the Seward Police Department would prefer all emergency calls be through the 911 system, however if a caller experiences a problem with the 911 system they should call the business line at (907)224-3338.

5 Comments

  1. If the system isn’t working exactly as it should, then the Soldotna dispatchers should just pick up EVERY CALL – and not worry if it is coming from Seward Alaska, Seward Nebraska, Crown Point, Woodrow or anywhere else.

    The 911 system works purely because it is easy and a one-stop-shop. If there is a technical problem or a question about where someone is at when they call, a trained dispatcher should just ANSWER.

    The problem sounds simple. Soldotna should answer and if the issue is in Seward they can transfer the call here where our LOCAL Hard-Working and Trained Emergency dispatchers are there 24/7.

    By the way, every phone (residential, cell, and business) has a $2 fee each month (I think – the fee may be slightly less) that goes to pay for this service. This should generate at least $6000-$10000 per month in revenue. Why not eliminate Soldotna from the whole equation and have all 911 calls from south of Primrose answered at SPD dispatch – and keep the $$ from the FCC E911 fees here in Seward instead of sending our money to Soldotna where they may not answer the call reliably.

  2. In my experience, the call is not always routed. Soldotna may ask you to hang up and call the troopers in the Kenai office directly, even as you’re observing a threatening situation and may have difficulty memorizing the office number they give you.

  3. Having worked in 911 emergency dispatch not every call can be answered on a timely basis when multiple calls come in at the same time. I worked in a 4 person dispatch center.
    Each person operated a radio for EMS, Fire, and two Police Radios.

    There is alot of multitasking required to be an emergency dispatcher.

    Phones(local and 911), Radios, and entering NCIC.

    If you have a one person dispatch maybe you need to look at increasing the amount of dispatchers and call takers you have. To do that costs taxpayers money.

  4. From reading the article, it doesn’t sound like the issue was that the Emergency Dispatchers were occupied on other calls when these incidents happen. It sounds like a classic case of something that happens at my house (and probably most others with kids)…The Emergency Dispatchers in Soldotna ‘thought’ that someone in Seward would answer the call when it was automatically transferred and didn’t want to answer it only to have to transfer it to Seward – but the call didn’t get transferred or answered.

    I may be wrong about the technical or logistical aspects, but if someone is calling 911 – anyone in a dispatch center not already answering another 911 call should pick up – and not assume that it is ‘in’ another area and will be automatically transferred.

  5. I highly doubt a 911 call goes unanswered based on its 224 prefix.

    Dispatchers are trained to answer all 911 calls and treat it as a true emergency. Once its determined the emergency call is not in their district it is transferred to the appropriate local agency.

    However, if what is mentioned is occurring their needs to be some serious changes in the policy and procedures of
    the Soldotna Communication Center. Hopefully this is not the case.