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Audit: Salt Lake County 911 system inefficient



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SALT LAKE CITY -- In the past, KSL News has reported on problems with the Salt Lake Valley Emergency Communications Center (VECC) and why Utahns who call 911 are often put on hold, get a busy signal or have their call go unanswered. Utah Lawmakers took a look for themselves and agree there are problems.

The state audit says Salt Lake County's 911 system is inherently inefficient and leads to delays in law enforcement response times.

Leaders of VECC and the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office agree with the legislative audit. In fact, they said they are working together to solve the problems.

"We're very supportive of the audit," said Salt Lake County Undersheriff Scott Carver.

"It was a good report," says VECC's executive director, William Harry. "During the hearing this morning, the sheriff's department and I agreed to work together to form a work group, or to figure out what is the best way to: one, better cooperate between the two centers and overcome some of the deficiencies that have been noted in the report."

One noted problem: redundancies and delays due to the way the system is set up. For example, emergency calls from suburban and unincorporated areas go to VECC, but when a call needs assistance from the sheriff's office it has to be transferred. That can take up to two minutes and cause confusion to deputies dispatched.

In 2008, VECC received more than 43,000 calls for the sheriff's office. That is about 14 percent of all 911 calls received by the center.

Both agencies said a new computer program put into place six months ago is addressing that issue.

"We have recently, in the last six months, implemented a technology which allows those calls to be transferred quicker, and thereby reducing the response time of the deputies called out. That's been very beneficial, and we're still working on the tweaks of that," Carver said.

The new system also helps with lost calls.

The other big issue VECC and the county will work together on is determining if more 911 call centers are needed in the valley.

"The earthquake that we're all anticipating sometime comes someday. If that would occur today, we might not be able to handle all the 911 calls that come in," Carver said.

With the new computer system mentioned, Carver said the audit isn't talking about lost calls or hang-ups, but rather the loss of minutes when calls are answered. He said all calls are now being answered in a timely manner.

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Story compiled with contributions from Amanda Butterfield and The Associated Press

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