Some Phoenix residents share concerns about getting through to 911

Police explain what to do in an emergency
If you call 911 in Phoenix, you may not connect with a live operator right away.
If you call 911 in Phoenix, you may not connect with a live operator right away.(Arizona's Family)
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 10:03 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Phoenix police say 911 operators answer calls within 20 seconds 80% of the time, but they’re severely understaffed. The department is looking to hire 56 operators and dispatchers. Some Phoenix residents told Arizona’s Family when there’s an emergency, they can’t get through to anyone when they call 911.

A Facebook post in a private group for Valley moms has more than one hundred comments. Many people share a similar scary and stressful experience when they call 911, saying no one answered right away during an emergency.

If you call 911 in Phoenix, you may not connect with a live operator right away. Instead, you’ll likely hear an automated message. That’s what happened recently to Stephanie, who didn’t want to show her face on camera. “What do you do when 911 doesn’t answer?” she said.

Her husband just had an intense back surgery earlier this month. He passed out at home and his lips turned blue, so she called 911 for help, but she says she couldn’t get through. “What if this was a home invasion or what if this was somebody bleeding out?” she said. “I was waiting for a prompt that said don’t hang up or please wait or we’re experiencing a high call volume and there was nothing.”

Phoenix Police Sgt. Phil Krynsky explains if you call 911 and a dispatcher can’t answer immediately, you will be added to a queue. He says do not hang up or call multiple times from multiple phones. “We might not have all the personnel to answer every call as soon as they come in, but we have a system in play,” said Sgt. Krynsky. That system involves an automated message that gives out the number to the non-emergency line. It plays on a loop while you wait for an operator.

Sgt. Krynsky says there’s a serious staffing shortage among Phoenix 911 operators and dispatchers. The department is currently down 20% of what it needs and is offering a $7,500 hiring bonus. “These are very important positions that we need that are really life and death,” he said.

Police say if you hang up while in the queue, there is a record of that and someone will call you back to make sure you’re OK. They say if there is an emergency, the best thing to do is to call 911 one time and wait if an operator doesn’t pick up immediately.

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