Dane County executive vows changes coming to 911 system

Parisi plans to propose changes 1 week after expressing confidence in system

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said he wants changes made to improve the performance of the county’s 911 Center. This comes a week and a half after a News 3 investigation highlighted lengthy waits for emergency callers throughout the area.

In an email to News 3, Parisi said his proposals will be introduced to the 911 Center Governance Board within a week, and he will ask its members to take immediate action.

Dane County 911 statistics showed more than 4,100 calls took longer than 40 seconds to answer over the last year. The 911 Center also did not come close to meeting the national standard of answering 90 percent of all 911 calls within 10 seconds in that same time frame.

Last week, Parisi expressed confidence in the 911 system and its director, John Dejung, but that changed late this afternoon after News 3 inquired about the accuracy of a statement Parisi made last week that no 911 center in the country met that national standard.

News 3 reached out to the National Emergency Number Association, the nation’s only nonprofit organization dedicated entirely to 911 issues, for clarification of Parisi’s statement only to find it was false.

“There are many 911 centers across the country that are able to meet that standard,” said Ty Wooten, who is the Education and Operations director for NENA. “It’s a measurement every 911 center should aspire to.”

Wooten said the standard was developed in 2005 by 911 professionals from around the country, representing both big and small agencies, before being published in 2006. He said 911 centers have individual challenges and thus, the standard was agreed upon as a way to measure their own performance.

One of NENA’s 7,000 members is Dane County 911 Center Director John Dejung. There are two other members from Dane County who belong to the association.

“It’s important because every second counts,” Wooten said during a Skype interview from Indianapolis. “Whenever you have an emergency, every second counts.”

On Thursday, Parisi’s staff said the county executive reached out to NENA himself “for recommendations on how to improve performance at the 911 Center.”

As for his belief that no 911 center in the country was meeting that standard, Parisi’s staff said, “In that call (to NENA), the county executive learned that he had been given inaccurate information by the 911 Center about other centers meeting NENA’s national standard.”

Madison Fire Chief Steve Davis released a statement Thursday saying “The Madison Fire Department is very excited to learn that Executive Parisi has decided to address the need for improving the Dane County 911 Center. We look forward to working in cooperation to address the issues that are impacting service delivery.”

Questions for Parisi’s staff about what specific aspect of performance at the 911 Center he was looking to improve and who had given him the inaccurate information were not immediately answered.