Oak Lawn approves three-year extension with Norcomm

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The Oak Lawn Village Board has approved a three-year extension of the lease agreement with Norcomm Public Safety Communications Inc., the company hired in 2013 to staff the 911 center.

The 5-1 vote on the resolution at Tuesday’s village board meeting followed the usual pattern, with only Trustee Robert Streit (3rd) voting against the extension.

“(Outsourcing 911 services) was the worst decision we ever made. That is why I will be opposing it,” said Streit. He went on to cite incidents in which residents complained to him being kept on the line by 911 operators, repeatedly asking the same questions about location.

The 911 center, located at the village hall at 9446 S. Raymond Ave., also dispatches calls for Evergreen Park, Bridgeview and Burbank, and Streit said some of the operators argued with callers, saying the addresses they called from were not in Oak Lawn.

“You expect the 911 dispatchers to know the communities they serve, and not have to ask so many questions. It is wasting valuable time.”

However, Diana Tousignant, director of emergency communications, spoke in defense of her Norcomm staff.

“We follow a particular standard of care. We’re required to verbally verify addresses, so we will ask questions,” she said. She added that while one dispatcher is asking the follow-up questions, another is already sending help, so no time is wasted.

“We have mapping systems that show addresses,” she said.

Trustee Bud Stalker (5th) said the instances cited by Streit were “anecdotal.”

“I’ve received anecdotal evidence too. It appears that Norcomm has been doing a good job. There ae going to be mistakes in every organization but we have accurate records (showing response times),” he said.

Responding to a question from Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd), Tousignant said that aside from one call from Streit about an issue, no one has contacted her with complaints about service.

She said she is listed on the village website, and encouraged residents with concerns to contact her by email or phone with any questions.

Tousignant also suggested that residents look at the statistics on 911 calls that are also available on the website, under emergency communications. She pointed out that at least 90 percent of 911 calls must be answered within 10 seconds, and in 2015, more than 92 percent of calls were answered within that timeframe.

“Extending this contract was not an easy decision,” said Village Manager Larry Deetjen. He said he spoke personally with officials from Evergreen Park, Bridgeview and Burbank, and they all supported the decision.

“This company saved the village more than $1 million,” Deetjen said.