911 Call Volume and Response

Public Safety

Department of Emergency Management

Target: 90 percent of calls answered within 10 seconds

Result: 90 percent of calls answered within 10 seconds

When someone calls 9-1-1 to report an emergency, he or she expects a prompt answer from someone who can initiate the chain of assistance for the emergency. This measure indicates the percent of 911 calls answered within 10 seconds. The original industry standard established by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) is that 90 percent of all emergency calls should be answered within 10 seconds. In February 2019, the San Francisco Department of Emergency Managerment (DEM) adopted the new national standard: 95% of all calls should be answered within 15 seconds.

Historical data for this new measure is only available from 2016 onwards; until enough data is available to report on a substantial historical trend, the Scorecards measure will remain the original national standard. Please see the second chart in the window below for data on the new national standard.


How the Department of Emergency Management is Performing

Total call volume, comprised of emergency and non-emergency calls, began to increase in September 2011 and continued to grow at a rapid rate through 2017. After roughly five years of call volume growth, service levels decreased below the goal of 90 percent of calls answered within 10 seconds.

Through San Francisco’s Civic Bridge program, a team from Google worked collaboratively with Department of Emergency Management (DEM) to investigate factors behind, and make recommendations to address, the City’s 911 call volume increase. The resulting paper, released October 2015, indicates that an increase in multiple 911 calls for the same incident, accidental cellphone dials to 911, and an increase in police-reported incidents are factors in the 911 call volume increase, as well as the comparable increase in non-emergency calls. Recommendations to address these issues include improvements to computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system functionality such as automatically capturing a “source” field for all CAD incidents, automating the callback process for dispatchers, and tracking accidental dials with a new CAD code.

Most significantly, the Department is undertaking a major hiring campaign to address the increased workload and replace recent higher-than average levels of retirements.  The job is both very sensitive and highly skilled, requiring six to ten months of background checks to be completed before a hire is made and nine months of training before a new employee is cleared to do emergency call-taking and dispatch work.

From 2007 through January 2019, the standard of Ring Time was used as the performance measure for call answering times: 90% of all 9-1-1 calls arriving at the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) shall be answered within 10 seconds.  Beginning in February 2019, the new standard of Answer Time was implemented: 95% of all 9-1-1 calls arriving at PSAP shall be answered within 15 seconds. DEM continues to report on both of these standards, as historical data is limited for the new Answer Time standard.

How Performance is Measured

The call-taking time interval is measured from the time a 911 call arrives at the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) until a dispatcher answers the call. Average daily 911 call volume is calculated by summing the number of 911 calls received in a month and dividing by the number of days in that month.

The number displayed on the scorecard page represents a fiscal year average of the response chart above.

Additional Information


Please visit DataSF for the scorecard data.