Charleston Co. 911 center to implement AI to reduce workload

Published: Apr. 21, 2023 at 3:49 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 22, 2023 at 1:47 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston County’s Consolidated 911 Center is moving forward on a plan to help reduce the workload for its call takers amid a shortage of employees.

Consolidated 911 Center Director Jim Lake said they are authorized to have 124 people to handle the workload, but as of right now, they only have 67 doing that work, with two dozen in training.

“Although we prioritize the 911 calls, they also answer what we refer to as administrative calls,” Lake said.

Lake said administrative calls are when there is no emergency and there are no first responders being sent to help right away, such as reporting a stray dog or a feral cat in a neighborhood.

“We process probably around 350,000 calls on our administrative line as compared to about 250,000 on our 911 phone lines,” Lake said.

The county said call takers on average spend just over two minutes on administrative calls, but they are told to put that call on hold if an emergency comes in. That process can tie up a call taker in an emergency and can lead to increased call times.

“What we’re looking to do is by using an Amazon Connect and artificial intelligence is to take those calls, filter them, but traffic cop them, or redirect them to the resources they actually need,” Lake said.

Lake said they are spending an estimated $3,400 a month to implement AI and machine learning to help reduce the workload on their employees.

“We want to provide an alternate method of doing that by reporting it online, and that way, it frees up the call taker,” Lake said. “Our main mission is to help you during an emergency. By implementing these measures, we can help you by taking care of those non-emergency needs and make our people available to answer your emergency calls quicker.”

County officials said they will stop taking administrative calls starting July 1, but they will continue to take the emergency calls that come into the center.