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Is Hialeah’s 911 system itself in an emergency?

Hialeah Councilmember Bryan Calvo holds a press conference in front of Hialeah City Hall to demand an investigation into 911 calls that are not being answered. Hialeah, Florida - June 26, 2023
Jose A. Iglesias
/
El Nuevo Herald
Hialeah Councilmember Bryan Calvo holds a press conference in front of Hialeah City Hall to demand an investigation into 911 calls that are not being answered. Hialeah, Florida - June 26, 2023 - Jose A. Iglesias jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com



Read more at: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/hialeah/article276785201.html#storylink=cpy

The 911 system is under scrutiny around the country.

In Broward County, for example, the emergency communication apparatus has been plagued with issues of chronic dropped calls, long wait times and acute understaffing.

Now those concerns are starting to rise in Miami-Dade County – specifically in its second most populous city, Hialeah.

The troubles faced by the city's 911 system were first reported by Verónica Egui Brito, who covers Hialeah for the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. She reported that almost 7% of 911 calls there are going unanswered.

On the latest episode of The South Florida Roundup, WLRN’s Tim Padgett spoke with City of Hialeah Council Member Bryan Calvo, who this past week called for an investigation into the city’s 911 shortcomings.

“Even if just one of these 30,000 calls over the past few years that have been missed, even if just one of those was a preventable death, I think that's on us as a city,” Calvo said.

WLRN reached out to Hialeah Mayor Steve Bovo’s office, but no one there was able to join the conversation. In a media advisory sent by his office last week, Bovo said no investigation is warranted. He said the city’s 911 system is “fully functional” and called the Herald’s reports “erroneous.”

Brito’s first story reported in April that Hialeah has 43 people in its communications department. Out of that number, 18 are call operators and only three workers are capable of handling all kinds of emergency calls.

The Fire Department Chief, William Guerra, speaks with a fire operator in the Emergency Services Division of the 911. Verónica Egui Brito vegui@elnuevoherald.com

Read more at: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/hialeah/article276660536.html#storylink=cpy
Verónica Egui Brito
/
El Nuevo Herald
The Fire Department Chief, William Guerra, speaks with a fire operator in the Emergency Services Division of the 911.

“The day that I toured the number one center myself, I saw three people in the chairs where the call takers answer these calls,” Calvo said, disagreeing with Bovo's take on the situation.

Brito’s reporting also pointed out that understaffing is a prevalent issue at Hialeah’s 911 Call Center and seems to be a result of the long training required.

She stated that in order to obtain Florida certification, new recruits must do 232 hours of communication training before they’re able to start answering calls unsupervised, which equals about four months.

Even then, to answer any type of emergency — police, medical and fire — they must spend at least two more years in training. And then there is the issue of loss of staff.

“Many times they'll leave because the pay isn't enough, it's not competitive, and they'll go to another department,” Calvo said. “And now we have to start the process all over again.”

During the latest episode of the South Florida Roundup, we also spoke about Miami-Dade County’s Guardianship Program and whether Guatemala’s presidential election is a reason for hope.

To listen to the full conversation, click here.

Ammy Sanchez, the Morning Edition producer for WLRN, studies communications at the Honors College at Florida International University.
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