911 Center saw rise in calls in '10

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- Calls to 911 increased by 4 percent in 2010, according to an annual report released this week by the Covington-Newton County Communications Center.

A total of 117,842 calls were made to the center, including officer-generated calls. Of those, 98,634 calls, or 83.7 percent, involved law enforcement agencies, an increase of 1.73 percent from 2009. More than half of those calls for service, or 53.05 percent, were dispatched to the Newton County Sheriff's Office. Nearly 25 percent were dispatched to the Covington Police Department. The Porterdale Police Department was dispatched to 4.09 percent of calls and Oxford Police to 1.38 percent of calls. Animal Control was dispatched to 0.37 percent and the Georgia State Patrol to 0.25 percent.

A total of 8,627 fire calls were generated, accounting for 7.32 percent of all calls. Newton County Fire answered 6,065 calls, while Covington Fire answered 2,562 calls. Fire calls jumped by 20 percent from 2009.

EMS calls totaled 10,581, or 8.98 percent of all calls. EMS calls increased by nearly 7 percent from the prior year.

Director Mike Smith said the 911 Center has seen an increase in calls for service since 2001 with no increase in staffing levels. The center is employing part-time staff from temporary agencies and using firefighters and police officers part-time to meet minimum staffing requirements, Smith said.

No staffing increases are one reason the average call processing time jumped from 1 minute, 5 seconds in 2009 to 1 minute, 59 seconds in 2010, Smith said. Processing time is time elapsed from acceptance of an address to assignment of a unit.

"More calls are coming in, but we've got the same amount of people answering them," he said. Also, certain types of calls, such as medical calls, take longer to process, he said.

"We don't like to see it go up, but there are a lot of variables that can cause that, such as call volume increase and lack of personnel. The thing we're proud of is that call answer times are still staying good," he said, referring to the time elapsed before a dispatcher answers a call.

"I've got the best staff in the world here," Smith said. "Often, it's out of sight, out of mind, but they are the first ones in the process when somebody needs help. We're doing our best here to make sure we don't hold the process down from the get-go. They do a good job."