INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Some Marion County residents are calling 911, only to find themselves on hold. One woman is sharing her concern after her disabled mother fell this past weekend and had to wait on 911 operators.
When seconds matter, this woman was left hurt, confused and alone.
Marion County is having a hard time keeping dispatchers, and families like the Steffkes want to know why.
“She was in panic mode, extreme pain and it seemed like forever to her,” Angela Steffke said about her mother.
Steffke's mother was on hold for 41 seconds after calling 911.
“I was extremely scared and nervous,” said Steffke.
She tripped over her walker while she was home alone. Steffke says her mom suffered an injured lung and a rib fracture.
“She’s been having nightmares that she’s still on hold on the phone,” said Steffke.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office admits 41 seconds is above their average hold time. The highest average hold time in the county was 31 seconds in November.
“Those seconds lead up to minutes and I think every second counts when something traumatic like this happens,” said Steffke.
The sheriff’s office has struggled with low staffing levels since 2011, which adds to an increase in wait times.
Last month, the council announced a pay raise for operators, from $31,202 to $34,320 for new hires. It's a step in the right direction.
“Our 911 operators do incredibly difficult work, handling over 1 million 911 calls each year, and dispatching runs for over 20 law enforcement agencies, including IMPD, yet they make significantly less than their counterparts in every surrounding county," said Sheriff Kerry Forestal. "This raise for 911 operators is a significant step in the right direction to solve the staffing crisis currently facing our 911 Center.
Steffke says more needs to be done.
“I feel if communities would come together and create a magnet with non-emergency numbers on there – you know, to place on the refrigerator or somewhere they can see it, that may help eliminate some unnecessary 911 calls for things that are not considered a true emergency,” said Steffke.
That salary increase announcement has helped with recruitment efforts. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office says they currently have 15 new 911 dispatchers in training.