I visited our new 911 call center located on South Park Avenue. As you might know, we are in the final stages of reorganizing the way 911 calls are handled. One of the first steps to doing that was having a new department, Public Safety Communications, that would handle the work that was previously done by separately by sections of the Police and Fire Departments.
Our new head for the department Ross Adelman, a retired US Marine colonel, is doing a tremendous job streamlining our 911 processes to be more efficient, customer friendly and provide higher service. A few years ago, a person would contact 911 and be transferred as many 5 times. Our new system will allow people calling 911 to stay online with the same operator through the duration of the call and minimize transferring of calls.
It wasn’t just a need for the system to be revamped, but our 911 services were understaffed as well. When we started this process, we were short 42 public safety service operators. That was nearly a quarter of positions unfilled. With the changes Col. Adleman has put in place, our attrition rate is down by nearly two-thirds and 39 new operators have been hired. Morale is up as well.
More importantly are the results for you as a potential user of our 911 system: of the 140,000 police and fire calls handled, 90% were answered in 60 seconds or less.
I sat in with one of our operators and observed how skillfully she served as a coach, social worker, crisis management specialist, and law enforcement adviser all at the same time. For those of us who think being a 911 operator seems easy, it involves keeping track of data on multiple screens and software that would have put most 80’s era shuttle missions to shame. Heck, Cape Canaveral now does not have much on our operations center.
Yes, that sounds like a bit of an exaggeration, but the technology that has gone into our new 911 center is impressive including a revamped computer aided dispatch system. It’s not all technology: operators are working in pods so that they can easily communicate with other operators if the need arises. One of my staffers saw this when two operators were able to coordinate a response by simply turning around and talking to each other.
Next month we will be putting a new system online called 311 for non-emergency calls. Unfortunately, non-emergency calls represent a minimum of 30% of the calls generated to 911 and repeat calls represent another 10-15% of them. TFD has a project called TC-3 that I have written about before that is also tasked with connecting some of our frequent callers to other resources so that our 911 system can deal with more critical calls.
I observed one operator have to spend almost 10 minutes on a mental health call as someone had seemed to have misplaced her medications at a Circle K and she helped the person find them, but the person just wanted to be on the phone. The 911 operator demonstrated incredible patience and professionalism to have the caller transferred to so she could work with our first responders and dispatch them to higher level emergencies. We often thank our first responders, but we should remember it is a team effort and 911 operators that are the backbone of our public safety system.
Peggy Sackheim, one of the founders and leaders of the Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood Association, passed away late last month. I only met her on a couple of occasions, but I saw the impact of her work almost every day, especially when I lived in the Fort Lowell Park area. I was married at the San Juan Chapel, the preservation of which was put into motion by OFLNA and Peggy. Below is a tribute to her that was sent out to members of OFLNA in their newsletter. My sincere condolences to Colleen and the entire Sackheim family as well as those lucky enough to call Peggy a neighbor.
It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to another one of our Neighborhood matriarchs. Peggy Sackheim passed away on Sunday, June 24th. She leaves behind a rich and varied legacy of dedication, vision, and love for the Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood.
Peggy Lynch Sackheim was originally from Texas, but made her way to New York, where she met and married Ben Sackheim, who owned and ran an advertising agency in the 1940s through 1960s. The Sackheim agency's offices occupied the top floor of the Plaza Hotel at Central Park South and Fifth Avenue. Ben and Peggy became well known collectors and sellers of rare books, art and architectural pieces. Their friends spanned the globe. They left New York and arrived in Tucson in 1973 after first looking to settle in California, Florida, or New Mexico. They purchased and renovated the Post Trader's Store at Fort Lowell after reading a for-sale ad in the local newspaper that piqued Ben's interest-"32 hand-carved doors, no two alike". The structure was in disrepair; its renovation was a labor of love, done with an elegant sense of design and authenticity, as they brought many of their collected treasures into the home. They were fastidious and demanding when it came to craftsmanship and quality in the restoration.
Between 1978-1980 the Fort Lowell Neighborhood was changing because of residential development. Peggy and Ben, along with Ned and Roz Spicer, Dave King, Linda Anderson, Ray and Jeanne Turner, Chuck and Ann Fina and other "pioneers" began to organize. They initiated and brought to fruition the establishment of the Fort Lowell Historic District. They were instrumental in the establishment of the Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood Association (OFLNA), the first neighborhood to be identified and organized in Tucson. They raised money and promoted political and historical awareness. They began the annual Neighborhood historical celebration and walking tour - La Reunión de El Fuerte. They recognized the special historic character of the Neighborhood and knew what it took to make sure that politicians and philanthropists would support their efforts.
Before the San Pedro Chapel was purchased by OFLNA in 1991, the post-La Reunión party was held, as it usually was, at the Sackheim home. This was a special time of community celebration. Peggy was instrumental in bringing people together for this event. Everyone who contributed to La Reunión was automatically included as well as the mayor, local politicians, artists and famous musicians, historians, architects, anthropologists and local neighbors. It was a way continuing the community spirit of La Reunión. Peggy managed the post-Reunión party. For the community, this event was just about as important as the Day itself.
Peggy continued to open her incredible home for innumerable meetings, projects and dinners even after Ben passed on in 2000. Meetings at her home were always enhanced by her special cheeses, tasty sweets, and exotic coffee extract.
Peggy was instrumental in starting the Antiques and Collectibles and Flea Market sales. She ran the sales for OFLNA for many years. She rallied volunteers, was exacting in the way she wanted things done, and she was usually right in her high expectations because the events were successful with an unusual flair. She constantly researched historic preservation techniques and was a wealth of information on those topics. She was the force supporting many of the historical education publications from her historic district, most recently the Fort Lowell Portfolio II, emphasizing accuracy, and completeness while staying focused on the details of presentation. She guided, coached and pushed towards a bigger vision of what we could be as a neighborhood and as individuals. She was tireless.
Many of us learned so much from Peggy. She was a generous and loyal friend. She will be missed.