How’s the 911 System Doing?

In April of 2004 the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County announced the merger of 911 emergency operations, with co-location coming first and then a complete merger in 2005. As of the 2010 sunset review report, the merged 911 center provided full dispatch of police, fire, and EMS for 103 municipalities, partial dispatch of those services for 16 municipalities, and "ringdown service" with no dispatch for 11 municipalities.

In May the state’s Legislative and Budget Finance Committee reviewed 911 operations in Pennsylvania, and some of the data points in the report are quite enlightening. In 2010 Allegheny County received 1.024 million 911 calls, about 1.5 calls per worker per hour at a cost of $22 per call (based on total expenditures/calls). There were 13 providers of 911 service that took more than 128,000 calls in 2010 and the cost per call for that group averaged $24, placing Allegheny just under.

Other data points:

  • In 2010, surcharge revenue covered 74% of total expenditures in Allegheny County. This was slightly higher than the average for the state (72%) and higher than the only other county that generated more calls (Philadelphia at 61%).
  • Allegheny’s cost per staff member (personnel expenditures/call taking dispatch staff) was $62,208; fairly close to Philadelphia ($61,398) but higher than the state average ($55,359).
  • As a percentage of total expenditures, Allegheny’s personnel costs represented 71.7%. This placed the County 13th from the top (Bucks County was the highest at 82.4%).
  • Allegheny had 9.5 dispatchers for every 1 supervisor; Philadelphia had a ratio of 9.1 to 1;