Soglin: Current 911 system ‘doesn’t work now’

911 Center Board to take up Dane Co. executive's suggested changes Wednesday
Soglin: Current 911 system ‘doesn’t work now’
Paul Soglin

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said he was surprised that Dane County officials did not alert him as to the lengthy wait times for 911 callers. He said it was another example of a system “that doesn’t work now.”

Since November Soglin and the Madison Police and Fire departments have complained about the delays taking place at the 911 Center dispatching crews to emergencies. While they knew call answering time was lagging, they were unaware that at least 4,100 callers waited 40 or more seconds before an operator picked up.

“I think it’s a really big deal,” Soglin said. “It’s one of the critical, essential elements of government.”

Soglin was particularly concerned about 911 Center Director John Dejung’s comments comparing a 911 Center to the construction of a highway. Dejung said last month that you can’t “afford to design that freeway for rush hour traffic all the time. There is some time there’s going to be that bumper to bumper traffic in terms of (answering) 911 calls.”

“A dispatch system is not a highway,” Soglin said. “In fact, you do build a dispatch system for the worst-case scenario. If we have the kinds of tragedies, whether it’s natural or man-made that has occurred in other cities, I want a dispatch system that is going to handle the worst-case scenario.”

Last Friday, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced a series of suggested changes to the 911 Center in an effort to get more calls answered faster. Parisi said if the center board does not act, he will go to the full county board to get the powers to act unilaterally.

Soglin said he’s happy to see Parisi take action.

“I think Joe Parisi’s initiatives at this juncture are critical, and is a significant shift that we appreciate,” he said. “There is an acknowledgement that there’s a problem. We’ve not had that breakthrough (before).”

The 911 Center Board will take Parisi’s suggested changes up in an emergency hearing on Wednesday.