Arlington Auditor Issues Emergency Communications Center Overtime Rep

Published on March 20, 2018

  • More efficient training process could potentially reduce overtime

  • Non-emergency calls to ECC rising

  • No current need for more authorized positions

Arlington County Auditor Chris Horton, in his first audit of a County operation, reported today to the County Board on overtime in the County's Emergency Communications Center (ECC). The ECC is the public safety answering point for emergency calls and for non-emergency calls related to police and fire-related incidents. ECC staff also dispatch police, fire or emergency medical personnel to respond as appropriate.

Horton found that a more efficient training process could result in greater staffing efficiency, and potentially reduce overtime expenses. While non-emergency calls to the ECC are rising, "which burdens existing staff and calls for a multi-faceted solution," Horton found that there currently is no need for more authorized positions. "Rather than prioritizing new authorized staff," he said, "the ECC should prioritize quicker access to better management data."

"We appreciate the auditor's thorough review of overtime in the County's Emergency Communications Center, and look forward to seeing his recommendations implemented," said Arlington County Board Member John Vihstadt, who co-chairs the Audit Committee with Board Member Erik Gutshall. "We look forward to more of these performance reviews, which are meant to provide specific, practical recommendations for improving processes and functions, to ensure that the County operates as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible."

Why the audit

Horton said he turned his attention to ECC overtime because it grew between 2015 and 2017. "Determining the cause of these increases can help improve ECC operations, as well as have a potential fiscal impact," he said. Total ECC overtime costs were $1.3 million in 2015, and $1.39 million in 2017. As a percent of personnel expenditures, overtime costs rose from 19.72 percent in 2015 to 22.08 percent in 2017. Read the full report.


Among Horton's specific recommendations:

  • The ECC should use its available training officers to focus on getting staff to the highest level as quickly as possible to increase flexibility.

  • The Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management, which oversees the ECC, should formalize follow-up on an internal innovation team's findings on non-emergency calls, and prioritize those areas where the department has the most control. It should also consider volunteers and other options for handling non-emergency calls.

  • Rather than prioritizing new authorized staff, the ECC should prioritize faster access to better management data. The department should also work with the Fire and Police departments to evaluate hanging their roles in the ECC, a change Horton said would help further reduce overtime costs in ECC.

About the auditor

The County Auditor is appointed by, and reports to, the Arlington County Board, independent of management. The auditor is charged with conducting performance audits of departments, offices, boards, commissions, activities and programs of the County that directly or indirectly report or are accountable to the County Board, and is overseen by an Audit Committee with three public members.