Durham 911 Center begins assessment to renew accreditation amid staffing shortage

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Just because something is routine doesn't make it any less rigorous.

"It all boils down to consistency, best practices, continual improvement and constantly looking at your policies and procedures," Zeta Fail, a lead assessor at the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA), told ABC11. "It's accountability, it's preparedness, and it's just, it's professionalism."

On Monday, CALEA formally began its assessment of the Durham Emergency Communications Center (DECC), which last received its accreditation in 2018.

"I just got off with being with the fire captain, I've talked to EMS, and I will talk to Durham (Police) tomorrow," Fail told ABC11. "We walk to the stakeholders and we talk to the actual employees."

According to CALEA, the 911 centers in Raleigh and at UNC Charlotte earn their accreditation through the same process, which lists 207 standards for public safety communication centers.

"The accreditation is a testament to the hard work, training, dedication, and professionalism of the men and women who work in our Center supporting all of our public safety agencies in Durham," DECC Director Randy Beeman said. "It is a fantastic achievement to have highly skilled and trained staff receive this distinguished honor, and our goal is to keep our accredited status which shows our commitment to the excellent delivery of public safety call-taking and dispatch services."

Though the assessment occurs every four years, CALEA's current analysis comes at a time when DECC continues to deal with staffing issues and complaints about response times.

During the past several months, ABC11 has shared multiple residents' stories of waiting minutes for someone to pick up their calls during an emergency -- a situation that Durham City Council member Mark-Anthony Middleton referred to as a "crisis of confidence."

Newly released data shows Durham's Emergency Communication Center answered more than 86% of 911 calls in less than 10 seconds during January 2022 -- a marked improvement since a low of 75% -- but still below North Carolina's standard of 90%.

Fail insisted that residents should feel reassured and confident that DECC is even signing up for this process to begin with, which demands accountability and performance. She also explained that DECC will present to CALEA plans to recruit and retain staff for both the short term and long term.

"I'm going to recommend they do a detailed workload analysis so they can see if they have enough people, if they can ever get to the point they are fully staffed, is that still enough?" She added. "And I'm willing to guess that's still not enough based on the call volume and the population growth. They want to provide the best possible service they can to everyone and that's why you go through this process."
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