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Portland’s 911 response time lags amid deluge of calls, anti-racism plans

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(The Center Square) – The Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications answered 43% of 911 calls within 20 seconds, a significant drop off since before the pandemic when more than three out of four calls met that standard.

The 911 emergency number had an all-time high of 739,127 emergency-related calls in 2023, up 52% from 486,353 in 2014 according to the city’s 2023 annual report. In October, Portland started using artificial intelligence to intercept non-emergency calls in to decrease wait times.

The city responded to emergency 911 calls within 20 seconds 77% of the time in 2019 and 78% of the time in 2020. That response rate dropped to 56% in 2021 and 39% in 2022 before moving up to 42% in 2023.

Portland 911 announced they were opening applications for call takers on Jan. 8. The Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications, 2022-2024 strategic plan states that its recruitment of dispatchers is “effective, equitable, inclusive and representative of the community served.”

The plan also states the department wants to “embody and normalize a culture of equity and anti-racism” as well as “competencies that promote equity and anti-racism for bureau employees.”

The city of Portland did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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