Cleveland debuts new 911 system to prevent delays, but they persist

Published: Apr. 8, 2023 at 10:11 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A desperately needed upgrade designed to improve Cleveland’s 911 system has missed it’s target date to be up and running.

19 News wants to know what’s at issue and when taxpayers can expect for the new 911 system to be installed in the city?

The improvements have already been made in Cuyahoga County, a dispatch center that often transfers emergency calls to Cleveland’s 911 dispatch center.

“There’s been issues with dispatch, we all know it, we’ve all heard about it and we’ve all read about it,” Michael Polensek, long-time Cleveland Councilman, said. “We’ve heard from constituents that there are delays or problems trying to get through.”

So, the question is why is the City of Cleveland delayed in installing the new 911 system that could solve those issues?

That’s what Councilman Polensek and other city council members want to know, because staffing shortages and technical issues have both played a role in the emergency system’s problems.

Cleveland’s new 911 upgrade was supposed to go online earlier this week, but, unfortunately that didn’t happen.

Councilman Polensek has sent the city’s administration a letter demanding to know why.

“We’re hearing it’s going to be delayed 6-months. We haven’t been briefed or given any indication of what the problem is, it’s an internal issue,” he said. “So, we’re waiting to hear from the administration.”

It was in April of 2022 when 5-year-old Apolina Asumani was hit and runover by a speeding car that fled the accident scene on West 50th Street.

The child died a short time later at the hospital. Cleveland Police bodycam and 911 calls confirm it took officers 34 critical minutes to respond to the initial call.

One resident whose RING camera captured the accident can be heard telling a 911 dispatcher, “We’ve been over here waiting for police and nobody’s showed up yet.”

“What they’re allegedly doing is upgrading the system, so we won’t have delays,” Polensek said. “It would be a more flexible system in trying to respond to those citizens who are calling.”

The City of Cleveland issued a statement that says, in part:

“The new system will dramatically increase the overall stability and reliability of the call-answering system.

Due to the size of the city’s safety dispatch operatings and yearly call volume, the project schedule is being adjusted to allow for additional testing and other system verifications. This is needed to ensure a seamless cutover/transition to the 911 system upgrade.”

So, for now it appears the Cleveland community will have to wait a little longer to see improvements to the 911 system, as the city works to ensure safety remains the priority.