Data: Here’s how long people wait on hold for 911 in KC

Published: May. 25, 2023 at 10:13 AM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - If you are in an emergency and need help in Kansas City, be prepared to wait.

The latest data from the Mid-America Regional Council, which tracks 911 hold times for all metro area departments, revealed that in April the median wait time for KCPD was 46 seconds.

Data also showed that on 11 days, people waited more than 50 seconds. Six of those days crossed into the 1-minute hold time.

Emergency calls and non-emergency calls are separated, so the wait times represent people largely needing help in criminal and medical emergencies where seconds might count.

Previous months were equally troubling and outside nationwide standards for answering emergency calls.

  • January: 28 seconds
  • February: 27 seconds
  • March: 35 seconds
  • April: 46 seconds

The data showed that the worst days to call 911 in April were Thursdays (with an average wait time of 58 seconds) and Fridays (average wait time of 56 seconds.)

The National Emergency Number Association sets standards recommending 90 percent of a department’s calls be answered in 15 seconds. Ninety-five percent should be answered within 20 seconds.

ALSO READ: ‘Terrifying and unacceptable: Mayor blasts 911 wait times in Kansas City

A check of regional data revealed Kansas City is the only department in the area that continually struggles with meeting that standard.

How people respond to hold times

Kansas City’s hold time problem has been the focus of numerous investigations as we’ve reported on people giving up on 911 and running to fire stations for help when a pedestrian was hit by a car.

One family turned into their own first responders, threw a seizing child into the back of a car and raced to the hospital themselves wondering how long the hold time might be.

KCTV5 has spoken with several families who openly questioned if their wait times played a role in their loved ones’ deaths.

Almost all expressed confusion at the automated message urging people to stay on the line and for their calls to be answered. Many react not knowing how long that wait will be.

The mayor’s tweet describing his sister waiting on hold for 911 for their mother was met with compassion and similar stories.

One woman responded that she sat on hold for 15 minutes after her father fell and hit his head. He ended up in the ICU. A man shared his story of sitting on hold for six minutes trying to report a fire.

What’s the problem?

High call volume and staffing have been the root of Kansas City’s 911 problem for years.

KCTV5 reached out to KCPD prior to the Mayor’s tweet questioning April’s data and requesting an interview. We were directed to the recent Board of Commissioners meeting.

Commissioners point out that many calls do not need to be going to 911. Many of the calls were not true emergencies.

People can call 311 to report a city complaint.

The police non-emergency number is (816) 234-5111

KCTV5 has also previously reported on staffing concerns and how the department needs more call-takers.