Today Mayor Sheng Thao, Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas (District 2), Councilmembers Carroll Fife (District 3), Kevin Jenkins (District 6) and Rebecca Kaplan (at-large), announced their commitment to an additional investment of $2.5 million over the next two years to strengthen Oakland’s 911 response system.
The funding will come from the Oakland-Alameda Joint Power Authority, which experienced an increase in revenue. With this additional funding, Mayor Thao’s Administration and the City Council are committed toward a 911 improvement plan.
The announcement was made as the City continues to develop its timely response to the recent Alameda County Grand Jury report that addressed a number of 911-related issues. Work continues to improve and reinforce all the elements that contribute to the City’s 911 response system – a system that receives more than 500,000 calls for service a year.
“Response times have been a long-standing issue for our City, and the current situation is unacceptable,” said Mayor Thao. “While we are currently working on our responses to the Grand Jury report on 911, we are proposing today that these additional funds be used to implement the recommendations of that report and our next steps in improving the system. I look forward to working with the Council to ensure that we put these funds directly to use for all Oaklanders.”
“Our City Council’s adopted budget prioritized community safety and we are building on those commitments today,” said Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas. “When you are in crisis, you deserve a swift response. In June, Council voted to prioritize hiring, training and retaining 9-1-1 dispatchers to improve this vital function. Our three branches of government are partnering to deliver results. Our policymakers on the Council, our executive leadership in the Mayor’s Office, and our Administration including our staff are working in alignment to improve our 911 system, as a critical part of our comprehensive community safety system.”
Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, who serves as chairperson of Oakland’s public safety committee and Chair of the Coliseum Authority Board stated: “I’m thrilled that working together we were able to increase revenues to bring funds to support vital community needs - and mobilize these resources to improve our public safety 911 dispatch.”
In addition to this announcement, Mayor Thao and the City Councilmembers joined City Administrator Jestin Johnson to provide additional updates on Oakland’s 911 response system, including increased recruitment and staffing for the dispatch centers, and modernization of the computer systems that automate and support those call-takers’ work to swiftly connect callers’ needs to the City’s emergency responders.
Both the Oakland Police Department and Oakland Fire Department have identified that a primary contributing factor to longer call answer times is lack of staffing. In OPD’s 911 call center, there are currently 62 dispatch/call-taking staff and 16 vacancies. To address vacancies:
The City administration has authorized continuous recruitment for dispatcher jobs.
OPD is conducting ongoing community outreach and recruitment to encourage Oaklanders to take advantage of these job opportunities and to join us in serving their community.
OPD has interviewed 79 candidates for dispatch/call taker positions since June 2023.
Anyone interested in applying or learning more can visit https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/oaklandca for job details and an application portal. Positions are listed as “Police Communications Dispatcher.”
Upgraded Dispatch Systems and Tools
In addition to these ramped-up recruiting efforts, the City is also preparing a major upgrade to the computer-aided dispatch system, or CAD system, that the 911 call takers use to expedite connecting emergency responders to the scene of a call. This effort will be provided through a change order to an existing contract with Motorola to implement its PremiereOne CAD system. The City anticipates an accelerated six-month launch for the upgraded CAD system, including refreshing key training for dispatch and operations staff in OPD and OFD. The change order, which is anticipated to add an additional cost of approximately $150,000 to the project, will be fully funded within the existing project budget, and is being finalized now.
Resilience and Backup Power for Future Outages
In early July, City facilities in East Oakland experienced technical issues stemming from an unforeseen power outage. This impacted the City’s 911 phone system and the existing CAD systems. In less than 10 minutes, the City restored caller access by routing incoming 911 calls through our partners at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office while City dispatchers relocated to an unaffected facility, at which point the City resumed routing and dispatching those incoming calls. This period of less than 10 minutes Thursday afternoon was the only period during which calls were not being received.
While this issue was resolved quickly, the City also recognizes it was an unacceptable occurrence and took swift steps to prevent future incidents. The new PremiereOne CAD system, when launched, will be hosted in a commercial data center in Oakland with redundant power and cooling systems. Additional to the anticipated upgrade to the CAD system, the City has upgraded equipment related to the backup power supply at its current facilities, and has instituted a monthly testing program to confirm the equipment and process is functioning as expected. This program also includes routinely scheduled training of maintenance staff.
The City is also exploring onsite battery storage and solar solutions to provide other critical City facilities with additional resilience and to support the City’s electric vehicle goals.
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